Book Reviews of My Lobotomy

My Lobotomy
My Lobotomy
Author: Charles Fleming, Howard Dully
ISBN-13: 9780307381262
ISBN-10: 0307381269
Publication Date: 9/4/2007
Pages: 288
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.

4.2 stars, based on 38 ratings
Publisher: Crown
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

30 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed My Lobotomy on + 239 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 19
Wow. I will admit that I went into this book knowing very little about the lobotomy except what little I had picked up here and there. I had heard about the author's piece on NPR (linkage: Before I read the book, I listened to the NPR story (if it doesn't make you cry or at least sniffle a little bit, I'm sorry, but you aren't human). The book basically goes into a lot more detail than the NPR piece.

The thing that strikes me most about this book is the writing style. It's extraordinarily flat. You can tell where the co-author did most of the writing (the history and other fill in pieces) and where Howard did. That's not to say it's a bad thing. You ARE reading a book written by and about a man who has undergone a lobotomy. That's not to say that this man doesn't have feelings, he so obviously does, but you get the sense that his emotions are dulled in some way - whether that is by his "operation" or just the way he is, I don't know.

I was struck by how normal he seemed as a child. Oh, he was a hand full - I imagine he would have spent a lot of time in the time out chair at my house. *laugh* But being naughty doesn't excuse the abuse this man underwent as a child - it certainly doesn't make it okay for someone to stick a big metal stick in your eye and scramble your brains.

Ah, and then the anger. I am very aware this all happened 50 years ago, but reading this I was so disgusted by his step-mother, the people around this little boy - and his father. Oh, Howard is a better person than I am, I still hate his father for letting this happen to him. I was so angry with everyone in this book that surrounded this child. It was like no one was paying attention. Yes, it was different times, blah blah blah.... but ARGH! What really peeved me was those that seemed to know it wasn't the kid's fault and still did what the insane step-mother said.

Having said that, there are a few times you have to laugh. Howard is a good storyteller. He kept me interested and he made me smile. He obviously has had time to look back on his life and see how things went wrong after his "operation" and can laugh about some of it now. I also cried. I cried for this little boy, for who he was - even if it was this crazy, lovable, unruly, spirited child, for who he could have been, and for who he is. I want to rewind the clock 50 years or so and take this little boy into my home and make him a grilled cheese sandwich or something so utterly normal. Just normal.

Anyway, it was a good book. Read it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 107 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
This book is absolutely riveting. I couldn't put it down and finished it in one day. This autobiography of Howard Dullly who was lobotomized at 12 years old is incredible. His strength, compassion and perseverence are absolutely amazing. I just finished reading it and I hated for the book to end...absolutely incredible.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
It was heartbreaking to read, but his attitude made it bearable.
The most amazing part for me was how one woman could have put so much pain into a child's life and turned a family against a young child.
The last chapter was amazing and made the book for me. In this chapter he undergoes an MRI for a study on Lobotomy and the results are shocking. What a brutal procedure. A good memoir and an incredible story.
reviewed My Lobotomy on
Helpful Score: 6
This is a heartbreaking memoir of Howard Dully, who was given a transorbital lobotomy in 1960 at the age of 12. His stepmother had it in for him and pushed for the operation, and unfortunately his father went along with it. The book traces his life from birth through today, where he is now an adjusted father of two, a husband and employed at a job he enjoys. It is believed that his young age allowed his brain to compensate for the damage done to it, however he was shown little love growing up and was emotionally scarred from the operation.

I'm thankful that Howard had the courage to tell his story. It was an interesting and enlightening read about a dark chapter medical history.
reviewed My Lobotomy on
Helpful Score: 6
This is a well-written, fascinating account of Howard Dully who was lobotomised at 12 years old. A dignified, honest story which is very moving. He manages to describe the fairly harrowing child abuse he survived, but is not at all self-pitying. Very much worth the read!
reviewed My Lobotomy on
Helpful Score: 4
This is the biography of a man who had a lobotomy at age 12. Although it is, of course, incredibly sad, it is also interesting and different. He was born in 1948, as I was, he wasn't insane or mentally retarded and yet this was done to him. Despite all the dificulties Dully encountered in his life, he eventually became a strong and happy person who helped others by telling his story.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 218 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
In 1998 Howard Dully began the journey into his past to find the answer to what happened to him and would be life stigmatizing and changing forever. The secret kept hidden from him until he held the answer in a file named DULLY, HOWARD in his own hands.

Howard was born a normal child with a loving mother who died at an early age. His father, lacking general affection, remarried and Howard's life got even more complicated. The new mother didn't like him and didn't want him. She began picking on him, spanked him and told lies about him so that the father in the evening would spank him some more. He was singled out, had to eat alone and lived a life in fear of his stepmother.
He was 12 years old when the stepmother contacted Dr. Walter Freeman, the famous but controversial surgeon performing the lobotomy. After several talks with the stepmother and Howard the doctor concluded that Howard was a normal boy but performed the lobotomy anyway. The file contradicts that Howard suffered from schizophrenia.

But for his stepmother the gruesome surgery wasn't enough. She still said he was a violent child and she could not live under the same roof with him and his brothers. Howard had to go and he did. From juvie hall to mental hospitals to an asylum for the insane all the while being told by doctors that he is a normal boy but that there is no other place for him to go since home wasn't possibility for him.

As a child living with truly insane people, troubled kids he stood true to himself but developed what was unavoidable: he became delinquent as soon as he was given to a halfway house. He lacked basic awareness for himself, had never learned to take care of himself and soon was given back to the asylum for the insane where he stayed a few years. At one point he couldn't be kept in the asylum any longer as being diagnosed as healthy.
He was released on his own, soon married and became a father, dreaming the dream of having a family but it didn't work out with him being drunk and drugged all the time. Things slowly changed when he met his second wife Barbara and a second child one the way when he decided he had to get his act together and become responsible.


I began reading the book with totally different expectations which is what happens when you decide to read a book without reading the inside flap of the cover. I only read what stood on the back of the book which mainly focused on the topic and title of the book: The Lobotomy.
So when I learned the book actually has one chapter concentrating on before and after the lobotomy I thought about the purpose of the book. I decided to put my expectations away and go with the story.
Howard's story is one of many and then some more. The whole story of how easily it was decided to perform the dangerous surgery and how easily people around Howard were manipulated by his stepmother is terrible and it is no wonder this boy became a handful. Despite of him more then once writing he doesn't remember that much. No child is able to develop normally in a surrounding like he did. No child is able to develop normally in surroundings he lived in later either. He practically grew up surrounded by really insane people, troubled kids and teenagers and he never experienced love since his birth mother died. One has to ask how he managed to not get into more trouble than he did. Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, bad checks, ... .

I felt outraged by what happened to a child and that there was no protection either by a "father", professionals or the government.

The last chapter in the book was powerful and even answered my questions as of why this book was written. As Dully states himself: Where were the authorities ? With Freeman not being a licensed psychiatrist allowing him to diagnose the boy schizophrenic and perform the surgery, the missing medical standard. The doctors that examined Howard, those who knew he was going to have a lobotomy despite their conclusion he was normal. He talks about today's doctors who are allowed to diagnose depression or bipolar illness in children, prescribing powerful medications leaving the parents to decide if they want a to consult another doctor for a second opinion.

First and foremost he was a victim of unloving parents and authorities who didn't care to give a child and growing teenager the protection it deserved. He hid behind the lobotomy only recognizing later, that the lobotomy was the explanation to everything that went wrong in his life. That he hid behind it and had to stop being the victim. In the end he is lucky he survived the whole procedure. Many did not or were heavily brain damaged.

More about Howard Dully's journey:
My Lobotomy - Howard Dully's journey (NPR radio program, upper left under the title)
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 41 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book was very interesting. It did take a while for me to get involved but once I was, I couldn't put it down. It was interesting, and informative. I felt such sorrow for Howard as a little boy that no one wanted. My mother instincts kicked in and even thought the rational me knew he is now older than I am, I wanted to adopt him. His treatment as a child sickened me.
I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks you cannot rise above your childhood.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A man's search for meaning in a lost, sad, and terrible childhood. When I heard the NPR story that ultimately inspired the writing of this book, I had to read Mr. Dully's story. I was horrified at how Mr. Dully was treated and I think he tried very hard to be objective in his search for meaning in his life. Ultimately, I don't know if his operation created his life, or if his life would have been the same, lobotomy or no lobotomy. However, in any case, I am thankful Mr. Dully had the courage to write this book. The writing is sometimes weak and pedantic, but what a story!
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 541 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Howard Dully's memoir My Lobotomy is both painful and inspiring to read. Howard received a lobotomy at the age of 12 at the urging of his stepmother. His memoir reveals how the lobotomy affected his life from his teenage through adult years. Even without the lobotomy Howard's memoir would be a fascinating one because it says much about society's treatment of the mentally ill and juvenile delinquents, and painful family relationships. It is difficult to read about how Howard was never given a chance as a youngster to live a normal life or reach his full potential, but it is remarkable to learn how he ultimately turns his life around.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An inspirational story of a young man who is subjected to a transorbital lobotomy because of his vengeful stepmother. Reads like a "Cinderella" story with a more evil stepmother figure. Surprising in its depth and details and a worthwhile read.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 168 more book reviews
This little treasure of a book has been on my TBR list for quite a while. You see, I have two sons and so it's difficult for me to read anything that is about a child in peril, particularly a boy. It applies to movies, too. Both my boys are in college now, so I finally felt I could read it without mentally replacing the subject of the book with my own children. It was so worth the wait.

Howard Dully is the victim of a heinous crime, plain and simple. We were at a place in our history, as a people, where there were woefully inadequate laws and safeguards in place to protect people, especially children, from malpractice, abuse, and exploitation. It was during this time that Howard, at the tender age of 12, underwent a transorbital lobotomy at the behest of his stepmother, who hated him, and with the full agreement of the infamous neurologist Dr. Walter Freeman.

Ironically, his age saved Howard, in a sense, because his brain was young enough to adapt to the severe trauma inflicted upon it by Dr. Freeman's "icepick lobotomy". And so Howard was able to write of his experience and come to terms with it. The writing is raw and honest; your heart will break for the fragile child he was even before the procedure - so in need of comfort and love. The book may leave you angry - at his stepmother, his father, Dr. Freeman, the many other doctors and specialists who had the opportunity to intervene, the bystanders (family and friends) and, finally, a child welfare system that was, essentially, nonexistent.

The book may also leave you with a desire to read more about Dr. Freeman and the procedure known as the lobotomy. I have added a couple of books to my Wish List: "Great and Desperate Cures" by Dr. Elliot S. Valenstein and "The Lobotomist" by Jack El-Hai. I'll let you know about them in later reviews. So I do recommend "My Lobotomy" - I think it's an important book and has application even in today's world where medical advances are marketed like candy and perfume.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 636 more book reviews
Wow... this was a very powerful memoir. Other than _One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest_, I haven't been exposed to much knowledge of lobotomies. This memoir was certainly informative, but also quite an emotional book on this topic. It is so hard (and so disturbing) to believe that it was that easy for such a dangerous operation to be performed on a child. The fact that the author overcame this almost fairy-tale-proportioned wicked stepmother, as well as institutions and drugs to become as successful as he has is awe-inspiring. It is such an amazing story. I must say that one thing that did stand out was the way Howard's residence was shifted from family member to family member as well. I would really like to hear the NPR broadcast, and I hope that it is still available online. I also want to point out that this paperback edition has an updated epilogue that was quite fascinating on a recent MRI of Dully's.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 45 more book reviews
I love memoirs and this one is absolutely fascinating. The things that one little boy went through... and he turned out to be an extraordinary man. You cannot help but completely believe in the human spirit after reading this book!
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 3 more book reviews
Great account of one man's childhood, confusion, abuse, and life after being lobotomized. Well done. An amazing read.
reviewed My Lobotomy on
Howard Dully is not the world's best writer, but his book is gripping nonetheless. Howard lost his loving biological mother at a very young age and his father then married a woman whose mission in life seemed to be Howard's destruction. Her compliment of mistreatments culminates in having Howard lobotomized at the age of 12. This book is as much an indictment of the psychiatric establishment of the fifties as it is of Howard's stepmother. Howard wasn't a sociopath, or schizophrenic, or if he himself is to be be believed, Howard was not even mentally ill. Howard is the victim of a step parent who wanted to be rid of him, and a psychiatrist whose hobby was promoting and performing lobotomies. "My Lobotomy" is an engrossing book, if a bit long winded at times. I recommend it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 68 more book reviews
This is an awesome story, of an ordinary young 12 yr old little boy, whose, wicked, yes, I said wicked, stepmother, ( his mother died 12 hrs after his baby brother was born) didn't like him, hated him, tried to starve him, rejected him, made him eat in a room by himself instead of with the family, etc. She was so conniving, that she sought out a crack doctor, who was doing lobotomies, he looks and acts, from the prose I read, and picture I saw, a lot like Dr. Jack Kevorkian...I'm serious! he would even take 2 pictures during the brain surgery, of the "ice picks" in the 'victim's head, thru the eye sockets...Yes, the picture is included.They farmed the boy out the rest of his life to various homes, and an institution or 2.The book is captivating, to hear how unbalanced, unloved and sad a life he lived, for over 40 yrs...then, at the end, well, I will not tell you, but it has a very good ending.I feel like I know Howard Dully, and thank him for sharing this life story .he is a very good writer too...I could not hardly put this book down, I read it, even though it is a full size hardback book, in 2 days of free time I had.I promise you, you will truly enjoy this book!
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 107 more book reviews
Young boy, most likely ADHD, back in the 50s. Stepmother didn't know how to handle him so she arranged a new, unorthodox, procedure - a lobotomy: Where an ice pick was used to separate areas of the brain. Howard never knew what happened, but just knew he seemed different. Not until he was in his 50s, did he learn the truth. An amazing true story.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 14 more book reviews
Tragic but true, a story of a life made whole and of a time in history when mental health treatment was new. Triumphant and also a PBS film. Historically accurate and thank God this doesn't happen anymore.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 907 more book reviews
Okay--here is a book, absolutely no one can read and not feel for this child-- and then as he grew up, man. His Father & Step-Mother should of been tared & feathered if they thought a lobotomy was necessary. 1960 was not the dark ages--what kind of Dr. would go thru with this?? Yup tar and feathers is approprate for this offense! This is the way i look at this --it is an offense!! Today Mr Dully is married and a tour bus driver,his story is so sad-- yet was compelling me to keep on reading. I want to know him now, I wish there was another book to follow.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 27 more book reviews
This is perhaps the most disturbing memoir that I have ever read. Howard Dully underwent a transorbital lobotomy at the age of 12 instigated by his step-mother. Howard may have suffered from ADHD or was just a high energy child who was somewhat defiant after losing his mother at a young age. Basically, he was raised in an abusive environment and placed outside of the home on occasion but eventually underwent a transorbital lobotomy in 1960 in an attempt to control him. It is amazing that this was allowed to happen. Howard spent about 10 years in mental institutions where he was taught no life skills. He was arrested many times, homeless at times, abused drugs and alcohol, and maintained no stable relationships until he married his current wife. Eventually, he got some education and found gainful employement as a commercial bus driver and instructor. He began to wonder why his life had been so difficult and went in search of the reasons behind his lobotomy at such a young age. The book came after Howard did an moving interview for NPR (which I highly recommend listening to). This edition also includes information about brain scans done on Howard after the book was published and what they revealed about him and the procedure.

As a mother of a "difficult" child and as a nurse, this story told in simple language made my blood run cold. This is definately worth your time and is a shameful part of our history of medicine in this country. I highly recommend it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 12 more book reviews
Sad but inspiring.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 266 more book reviews
This story caught my attention because of the lobotomy survival story, and I wanted to learn the medical changes brought about from a lobotomy...from the viewpoint of a survivor. Only a small bit of information is centered on the brain changes brought about by the terrible procedure, but the entire story is interesting. This is Howard's personal odyssey. How he finally rose above the abusive childhood, the heinous lobotomy, and how he somehow managed to survive. He struggled most of his life to finally achieve success, forgiveness and a happy home life...good for you, Howard.
reviewed My Lobotomy on
This is a surprisingly good book and a very quick read. It's heartbreaking to know that it's a true story.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 8 more book reviews
Very good and honest read. The story line drew me in and was full of interesting factual information. The story ended up not at all like I expected but was a very honest outlook from a seriously messed up situation. Read it, you will enjoy it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 184 more book reviews
Amazing book, Amazing person. The fact that he survived and triumphs over all his pain is an inspiration to us all.
WELL written.
If you enjoy biographies, this is a must read for you.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 410 more book reviews
I first heard Howard Dully telling his horrific story on NPR and was saddened and disgusted by what had been done to him as a child. This book goes into additional detail about his life.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 44 more book reviews
Howard Dully was given a lobotomy when he was twelve years old at the request of his stepmother. His brain's recovery was miraculous--his emotional state not so much. As an adult Dully set out to find out the details surrounding it because he had not been informed. Doctors told him he had so much brain damage that had he not been a child and resiliant as he was, he would be a vegetable. Dully did recover, but it is a chilling story of injustice and evil. It is hard to believe this is a true story, but it is. It is well told and I am glad I read it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 792 more book reviews
i just could not get into it.
reviewed My Lobotomy on + 5 more book reviews
It AMAZES me that the medical society allowed this procedure to be done at all, much less on a child! It is even more amazing that Mr. Dully turned out to be a perfectly normal adult who leads a productive life. The only disappointment for me was that he never gave God the glory for protecting his brain when (so-called) Doctor Freeman was trying to scramble it. The book is fascinating, though.