Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: The Abraham Man by R. Gregory Lande

"The Abraham Man" is a term with origins from the Civil War era. It referred to suspected shirkers who feigned insanity in order to avoid military service. In this fascinating narrative, Dr. R. Gregory Lande investigates the Abraham Man and how he contributed to modern medical practices.

I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I agreed to review it. The topic sounded intriguing, especially since its origins began during the Civil War, which is a time in our history I've studied a great deal about. But I was uncertain which direction the author would be taking this topic.

What I discovered within the pages of The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering and The Development of Medical Testimony was a detail-rich history of how doctors came to work with lawyers in order to prove or disprove cases of insanity. Thoroughly researched with an engaging narrative, The Abraham Man reads like an eloquent novel, while discussing American history, forensics, and law.  

Details of numerous legal cases showed how different doctors performed examinations of patients in order to support their arguments, often pitting those in private practice against those involved with the administration of insane asylums. Doctors were not only involved in testifying for cases of malingering. Physicians were often called to testify in cases where disgruntled heirs would claim the deceased was insane when drafting a recent will or provided their opinions in murder cases.

I was a bit disappointed that the author didn't have a summary chapter at the end or at least an afterword. The last chapter brings the reader to the "grand finale" (as stated by the author) of what was built during the greater part of the nineteenth century and shows how public confidence eroded as a result of a watered down definition of insanity. The last thirty-five plus pages cover the assassination of President James A. Garfield and the insanity defense of Charles J. Guiteau. Doctor John Gray and Surgeon-General William A. Hammond and their colleagues whose professional lives and battles the reader has followed through the majority of the narrative, square off in this momentous case. And while the reader is brought to a final analysis of that case, this reader was looking for a final word from the author.

If you enjoy engaging nonfiction, American history, or the law, you'll find a satisfying read in The Abraham Man by R. Gregory Lande.

Perfect Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Algora Publishing (September 30, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 087586936X
ISBN-13: 978-0875869360

I received a copy of this book from the author. The author paid me a fee to promote this book via a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

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