What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past Hardcover – May 11 2010
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WINNER 2012 – Donald Grant Creighton Award from the Ontario Historical Society
NOMINEE 2011 – Toronto Book Awards
“A brave and compelling journey into the world of mental illness, and a riveting look at the father-son divides in a family of talented overachievers. . . . FitzGerald manages to tie in important Canadian medical discoveries, two world wars, and the history of Ireland in an ambitious, yet riveting narrative. In heartfelt, lively, and meticulously researched prose, he links the personal to the political.”
—Writers’ Trust of Canada Non-Fiction Prize jury citation
“The emotional chilliness of early twentieth-century Toronto is blended with a tragic story of brilliant scientists and physicians doomed to madness, in journalist James FitzGerald’s memoir, What Disturbs Our Blood. . . . Never maudlin or melodramatic, FitzGerald’s book is a masterpiece of its genre, the chronicle of family secrets unearthed and healing attained.”
—BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction jury citation
“A memoir of extraordinary power and candour. . . . This book is as riveting as a crime thriller. . . . Every writer has one great story to tell. This is James FitzGerald’s story.”
—Patricia Pearson, The Globe and Mail
“What Disturbs Our Blood is beautifully orchestrated. . . . It’s a roaring cumulative set-piece, a pageant of hectoring souls. . . . A fascinating, multi-layered history of 20th-century medicine and . . . a passionate inquiry into a family’s tragedies. It’s a banshee of a book.”
“An ambitious book. . . . Fitzgerald accomplishes a masterful retelling of Canada’s medical history, while rehabilitating his family’s reputation and restoring his own sense of belonging and mental health. Not many books reach for and grasp so much.”
“What Disturbs Our Blood certainly disturbed mine in many ways, and I thought it was magnificent. I see our country and our city with very different eyes, not to mention our national medical heroes . . . I found potent resonances on every page.”
—David Cronenberg, film director
“A powerfully written, emotionally authentic and intellectually satisfying account of addiction and mental illness in a prominent Canadian medical family. A gripping read, due to the writerly skill and unflinching honesty of the author, and his commitment to uncovering dark secrets hidden behind blue blood respectability and high professional achievement.”
—Gabor Maté, M.D., author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
“A remarkable narrative of striving, depression, madness, suicide, and survival in a family connected with some of Canada’s greatest twentieth-century medical achievements. It is compelling reading, difficult to put down. . . . It deserves a wide readership. When you finish the book you have learned a lot and you have been put through an emotional wringer.”
—Michael Bliss, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History
About the Author
JAMES FITZGERALD is a journalist and author whose first book, Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College, was a controversial inside look at the attitudes and mores of Canada's ruling class. Revelations of the sexual abuse of boys at the school, first published in the book, led to the charging and conviction of two former teachers and the launching of a class action lawsuit against the college in 2002. The article that sparked What Disturbs Our Blood won a National Magazine Award.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
A family secret, the hidden suicide of his paternal grandfather, haunted FitzGerald's childhood. As he steadfastly unearthed the truth, he learned that this man who had been hardly mentioned in his family'even as his father strove to emulate him'had been a celebrated leader in the Canadian public health movement. His name was Gerry FitzGerald, of Irish heritage and immense energy, and he died in his 50's at the height of an illustrious medical career that included the founding of the world famous Connaught Laboratories and a key role in the discovery of insulin. The writer's father and Gerry's son, John, also a noteworthy medical pioneer, collapsed into a suicidal depression at the same age and never worked again.
On this scaffold, FitzGerald mounts several fascinating narratives, all with a view to fathoming his paternal heritage and unwinding his fate. He gives a sobering insider's view of growing up in the Anglo-Canadian establishment. The way things work at Upper Canada College and Forest Hill loom chillingly large.Read more ›
History that once headed down a devastating track was re-routed, by the author, to include the heart.
It was fascinating to learn about the pre-vaccine conditions in early 20th century Toronto, catastrophe Fitzgerald's medical family proudly did much to correct. It was equally stunning to learn about what Irish immigrants were up against as they established themselves in Ontario. One of the stiff injunctions was to keep one's feelings to oneself, to silence unresolved grief as one climbed the ladder to success. But as Fitzgerald makes clear - there is no ignoring - there's only stockpiling sadness until it breaks loose to chase you down.
A page-turner that details Canadian history in such a considered way that readers understand how unresolved pain must be redeemed - or passed on to another generation to suffer.
Eleanor Cowan, author of: A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
I heartily disagree with one of the reviewers comments about "self-centeredness". Although I can certainly see how the writing of the book could be therapeutic and life changing for the author, I think he wrote the book with a great deal of awareness and humanity. James FitzGerald gave his readers a gift in the writing of the book.
Most recent customer reviews
normally when one is excessively self centred, lacking in self worth, full of blame for everyone else, whining and otherwise unappreciative of his background and family and need... Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2012 by T. Merrick
WOW. This book is a keeper and one that should be read by anyone remotely interested in their family lines.Published on June 17 2012 by Hum 2010
Extremely well written. A must for all Canadians from both a historical and a personal perspective. I don't recall how many times I thought to myself "I did not know that".Published on Nov. 19 2011 by GDR
Though the subject of What Disturbs our Blood had no special relevance to me, James FitzGerald's evocative style and emotional power kept me riveted to the book. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2010 by Lily