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Submitted Literature

Love in the Asylum

By Lisa Carey


Novel examining twin-themes of Bi-Polar Affective Disorder and drug addiction.  Also examines the history of the site of the asylum that the novel is based in, leading to some fascinating historical revelations regarding traditional conceptualisations and American-Indian healing of mental illness.

Key Themes:

  • Addiction
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder
  • Cultural Psychiatry
  • History of Psychiatry
  • Institutional Abuses

Significant Quotes / Pages

2 – “Abenaki is an Algonquin word meaning “People of the Dawn-land.”  In the eighteenth century, the land was occupied by a small tribe of Abenaki Indians, who had managed to save every scrap of their homeland by maintaining a neutral position between warring French and English colonists, and making themselves useful to both.  There was a tradition - no one knew quite how it started – of sending white women off to live with these natives: wives, mothers and spinster daughters who had displayed behavior that could not be explained or cured by local doctors.  Women who wept too copiously and often; women who walked or screamed in their sleep; women who attacked their husbands with sharp instruments, or defecated in their own kitchens; women who tried to take their own lives.  The Abenaki were thought to be especially tolerant of the old, the sick and the insane; some believed they had secret, potent drugs that could cure things white medicine couldn’t even diagnose.  But mostly the women were sent there because they could be; the Indians took them in and saved the white families from shame and inconvenience.  There were stories of husbands who, wracked with guilt, went riding out to see their wives and found them leather-skinned and toothless, dressed in native clothing, speaking a barbaric language, with no memory of their former lives and no desire to return to them.   But generally, people did not visit the Abenaki; they were sent there to disappear.”

Reference: Lisa, Carey. 2004. Love in the Asylum. New York: Perennial, 2005


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009