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Publisher's Summary

An enthralling historical novel of a compassionate and relentless woman, a cutting-edge breakthrough in psychiatry, and a nightmare in the making.

Since her brother took his life after WWI, Ruth Emeraldine has had one goal: to help those suffering from mental illness. Then she falls in love with charismatic Robert Apter - a brilliant doctor championing a radical new treatment, the lobotomy. Ruth believes in it as a miracle treatment and in Robert as its genius pioneer. But as her husband spirals into deluded megalomania, Ruth can’t ignore her growing suspicions. Robert is operating on patients recklessly, often with horrific results. And a vulnerable young mother, Margaret Baxter, is poised to be his next victim.

Margaret can barely get out of bed, let alone care for her infant. When Dr. Apter diagnoses her with the baby blues and proposes a lobotomy, she believes the procedure is her only hope. Only Ruth can save her - and scores of others - from the harrowing consequences of Robert’s ambitions.

Inspired by a shocking chapter in medical history, The Lobotomist’s Wife is a galvanizing novel of a woman fighting against the most grievous odds, of ego, and of the best intentions gone horribly awry.

©2022 Samantha Greene Woodruff. (P)2021 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

“Dramatic and compelling…”—Historical Novel Society

“Samantha’s fictionalized novel sheds light on the real-life atrocities endured by so many during a time when maladies of the mind were so misunderstood. The focus placed on mental illness in The Lobotomist’s Wife certainly make it a timely read due to the attention placed on this topic since the beginning of the pandemic. This historically-inspired story allows readers to see the progress made in the treatment of mental illness through the years.”Hope Magazine 

“A compassionate historical fiction.”The Voice Magazine 

What listeners say about The Lobotomist's Wife

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Mary Jane’d

Well, this novel was built upon an excellent idea and an intriguing premise: can mental illness be cut out of the brain? I grew up in a post-lobotomy era, where the procedure was often referred to as a punchline for a total loss of thinking. Like, Randall Patrick McMurphy’s ultimate end in Ken Kesey’s <i>One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest</i>—if the last shot of Jack Nicholson’s character doesn’t haunt your impression of mental hospital “treatments,” you missed the point of the entire story. But I digress.

I knew I should have abandoned ship about halfway through, when it was apparent that “The Lobotomist’s Wife” (how telling that her name is withheld in the title!) is too good, especially as measured by 2022 standards. It’s a story about “the past” with cherry-picked feminist values plastered onto a perfectly charming, socially adept, unmarried, career-minded heiress who wants nothing else to do with the world but make it a better place! My daughter (in college) taught me about the current use of the slang term “Mary Jane” to define protagonists that annoy audiences *because* they are presented without flaws. It fits this protagonist so well. Like a poodle skirt paired with pearls.

So: the upside is that I am interested in reading about the history of lobotomies (and I wonder if the legend about them ultimately helped conservative Governors shut down state hospitals everywhere in the 1990s without providing other desperately needed social programs to help society cope with mental illnesses), and I wonder if the procedure evolved into something more useful/targeted, and if the scientist who came up with the procedure died in disgrace.

This book might be a satisfying read for people who love adverbs and predictable outcomes. They will silently, gratefully, willingly, lovingly, and adoringly embrace this “heroic” tale.

File Under: With God as Her Witness. . . .

47 people found this helpful

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Interesting story, poorly executed

The story is really captivating and fascinating. It plays on one’s natural draw towards the macabre, and highlights a gruesome time in America’s medical history and treatment of the mentally ill.
This is where the praise ends however. The characters fail to speak or think like real people. It also has the feel that the author had a thesaurus to her right and a book of news headlines from the time to her left. The prose is absolutely grating, as is the voice of the narrator. Some sentences are pronounced like Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek. It’s completely distracting. Otherwise, her different voices range from jarringly breathy and high pitched to almost comically caricaturing what she thinks regional accents sound like.

I think this would be a better read than a listen.

28 people found this helpful

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Interesting, important take on Freeman and Watts

Most of the names were changed. The stories are true. About 15% of people who were given icepick lobotobomies died. Dr Walter Freeman was so cavalier and arrogant, he referred to the *expected* outcome of lobotomy as "Induced Childhood." This was done worldwide to tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people who were left (at best) "functioning at reduced capacity." Women in particular: be a nice, content wife. If you were gay, this procedure would "straighten" you out. Veterans with PTSD; hey no more flashbacks. Children were not exempt. What was expressed in this book is actually prettier than what most of these "patients" experienced. Great narration!

20 people found this helpful

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A must-read for historical fiction lovers!

"The Lobotomist's Wife" is historical fiction, but take a look through history when over 3000 lobotomies were actually performed.

The results are chilling! Ruth Emeraldine has suffered the excruciating loss of her brother from suicide. The loss set her path toward helping those suffering from mental disorders. She meets charming Robert Apter. Robert has invented a new procedure called "lobotomy" (a psychosurgery used in the treatment of mental illness). Not only do Robert and Ruth share dreams of helping others, they fall in love and get married.

As years go by, Robert becomes well-known as the "renowned creator" of the miracle surgery. However, Ruth realizes that in truth, the patients Robert operated on did not get better. Overwhelmingly, many suffered horrific side effects that were worse. Ruth tries to reason with Robert about her deep concerns, but has he gone too far? Will his desire for fame outweigh his concern for his patients well-being being? Can he be stopped?

14 people found this helpful

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Extremely Realistic

This book brought back many memories. As a teenager I knew quite well an adult woman who had a lobotomy in the early 1950s. She sang in the church choir, baked for bake sales and kept the house clean. But she was also fearful, had no memory of her past, acted much younger than her years and lived with her mother because she couldn't function on her own.

This book captures the reality of the damage done by the eager and desperately wanting to help medical professionals. It also gives a hint of the desperation of families who just wanted their loved one brought back from the abyss of depression and suicidal behavior.

10 people found this helpful

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Very good but it was missing something

This book provoked many thoughts about the history of medical practice. The only thing I would have liked to hear more about is the idea of female concerns being written off, like the character, Margaret's case of the "baby blues." In the author's note it states the fact that over half the lobotomist's patients were women, but that was not really emphasized in the story itself and I think it would have tied Margaret's story into the main story a little better.

9 people found this helpful

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No contractions.

Interesting subject poorly done. Our protagonist is a bit too pious for belief and the lack of contractions makes it clunky.

6 people found this helpful

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The Lobotomist's Wife

This book was a fascinating fictional look at the history of lobotomy, focusing on Dr. Robert Apter and his wife, Ruth Emeraldine. Ruth became involved with mental health issues after her brother, Harry, returned from WWI a broken man, eventually committing suicide. As Administrator of her family's mental hospital, she is determined to help others suffering from similar issues.

Dr. Apter becomes obsessed with lobotomy and is convinced that is a simple cure for mental patients. He embarks on a campaign of doing lobotomies for thousands of people, claiming that they are cured. Ruth later learns that instead of being a cure, most patients become completely different people, often reverting to toddler-like behavior.

Another main character in the book is Margaret Baxter, a new mother suffering from a severe case of the baby blues. The author does a great job in showing how someone like Margaret might feel and the desperate measures they might take to feel better.

The author has created a great story which is based on historical facts involving lobotomy. Even though the subject is heavy and depressing, the book was a quick listen/read and I found myself continuing to read to see what happened next. The narrator did a good job with her performance and added a lot to my enjoyment of the book.

6 people found this helpful

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What a compelling story.

“Evil is bad that believes it is good.” Karen Marie Moning Technically, I shouldn’t have liked this book. The subject matter is heavy and depressing. But somehow, in The Lobotomist’s Wife, Samantha Greene Woodruff manages to take the dark subjects of mental illness, insanity and lobotomy and weave them into a story I could bear to read. Mainly, I loved the protagonist. Ruth Emeraldine Apter, the lobotomist’s wife, is compassionate, kind, scrupulous and smart. At first she believes her husband is on the brink of offering real help to patients suffering from severe mental disorders. Slowly it dawns on her that her beloved husband, Dr. Robert Apter, is spiraling into deluded megalomania and she, alone, has to put a stop his monstrous ice pick lobotomies. I loved this book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5 people found this helpful

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Great performance

This book held a lot if emotions being it was based on history though it is a fictional story. It was intriguing to listen to the overall progression through the years of the rise and fall of how the lobotomy came about and fell. I found it sad as well thinking of all the lives impacted yet I think of today's mental health crisis and I don't see any answers. What set off to be an attempt to help got twisted along the way. That's what a medical practice is after all,... the doctors are "practicing" medicine. They can never be 100% certain about what they do. There are too many variables in the equation for any given circumstance.

I did enjoy the book. It was a tad slow for my taste but overall I enjoyed it. 👍

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-31-22

Compelling

Slow to start, it builds momentum and has you at the edge of your seat.

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  • Linda
  • 02-07-22

Great story. Painful narration.

I really enjoyed the historic aspect of the story. This was the only reason I persevered with the annoying sing-song narration that made the characters very hard to relate to initially.