Book Two of the Thunder Rise Trilogy
Crossroad Press, 2013.
About the book:
With the support of his wife, Sharon, young neurosurgeon Nick Emin has left medicine to pursue his longtime dream of architecture -- and now he has just won his first big contract, to design a luxury resort from the remains of an old state psychiatric hospital that lies in the shadow of Thunder Rise.
It seems his decision to quit operating was wise, after all, despite the criticism he endured when he put down the scalpel.
Taking up temporary residence near the long-closed Elmwood State Hospital, Nick is slowly drawn into the institution -- and back in time, to when Nazi-inspired experimental surgery on the mentally ill was conducted behind the old brick walls of Elmwood. And not just lobotomy, once so widely practiced in America...
The pull of Nick into Elmwood’s past is no random development or horror-novel cliché. With his neurosurgical expertise, Nick has been called for a specific reason, by a specific person he will come to know well -- someone of great importance to him. When Sharon becomes pregnant with their first child, Nick begins to understand.
But first, the enigmatic Saint Peter and his friends have a mission for Nick that pits him against Elmwood’s inhumane administration -- a mission of salvation with terrible consequences if it fails.
This is entirely a work of fiction. I created the characters and events.
But I did not create the historical circumstances in which Asylum is set.
Not so very long ago, within my memory as a journalist who covered their dying days, American institutions for the mentally ill and disabled were as depicted in these pages: warehouses that often became laboratories for the mistreatment of our fellow human beings. Residents suffered needlessly, and endlessly. Time dragged. The real world faded until it was gone. Hydrotherapy, insulin, electroshock treatments, lobotomy, forced sterilization, all of which are mentioned in this book -- all were real. All were commonplace. Untold numbers of lives ended beneath unnamed concrete markers in potter's fields.
Since the 1980s, when I covered these issues for The Providence Journal, many of these institutions have closed. I would like to be able to report that our society's treatment of the people who once filled them has become more enlightened. And while there are some communities where this is indeed the case, and while I know of one institution where care is compassionate and first-class -- Zambarano Hospital, in Pascoag, Rhode Island, where Frank Beazley, to whom this book is dedicated, lived for so long -- overall, little has changed. Many of the mentally ill and disabled are now imprisoned -- one institution having replaced another. Many are on the streets, lost, abandoned, and often abused. Some are war veterans, which adds an additional layer of national shame.
And all remain subject to ugly stigma that pervades our society. Stigma that is based on the absurd notion that disorders of the brain are somehow different than disorders of any other organ.
Are we so lacking in compassion?
Have we learned nothing?
A percentage of the proceeds from sales of Asylum are being donated in memory of my good friend and inspirational champion for the disabled Frank Beazley to Patients for Progress, which benefits residents of Zambarano Hospital. Frank, who died in 2012, Beazley was the group's long-time president. Additional donations may be sent to: Patients for Progress, Zambarano Hospital, 2090 Wallum Lake Rd., Pascoag, R.I., 02859