He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird | review

  • Title: He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him
  • Published: February 17th 2015
  • Author: Mimi Baird
  • Original language: English
  • Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
  • More info about the book
  • Author bio


Mimi Baird was in her fifties when she received a package from a distant relative. Inside, she discovered her father’s whole life: the manuscript of the book he intended to publish about his experience as a doctor and a mental facility patient. Mimi Baird never really knew her father, Harvard-educated Dr Perry Baird, since he disappeared from her life when she was 6. Her mother refused to talk about the issue, and the little girl grew up feeling something was missing from her life. She was curious to know her father, but there was no one to talk to. Dr Perry Baird died when his daughter was 21.

Mimi Baird, author of He Wanted the Moon

After so many decades, Baird found a way to get to know his father, and in such a unique way. She published this book as a mix between her father’s manuscript and her experience of learning about his life. Understandably, after having little to no contact with her father, there is a certain distance that the author kept from him. Her writing seems rather distant at times, although it is clear that the discovery changed the way she looked at her life and her parents. It is also a great way, in my opinion, of passing on the family history to her own children and grandchildren. As she mentions in the book, she had no intention of covering up Dr Perry Baird’s past to her descendants. I think she was, after all, the first one in the doctor’s close family to accept his situation and not be ashamed of him.
dt.common.streams.StreamServerBut who was Dr Perry Baird? He was a Texas-born physician, who suffered from severe bipolar disorder, at that time simply known as ‘manic breaks’. It was the 1940’s, and the practices of the time seem cruel to the reader of today, and with good reason. He was often put into straitjackets from which he tried to escape, he was exposed to cold and the other harsh conditions of the facility. The book is a combination of medical records, neighbors’ accounts, but most importantly a book Dr Perry Baird wrote after he was admitted at Westborough and Baldpate. The worsening of his condition is evident as time goes on, and his writings contradicts the medical records. It is both painful and captivating to read his story.

Yet here on the hillside I was happy in that simple, animal way; strangely happy just to be resting, cool and free of hospital barriers.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject of mental illness and how it was dealt with in the 20th century, as well as anyone who likes the idea of reading a ‘lost’ and retrieved document from the past.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange of an honest review.


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