The Fading of Lloyd embroils the reader in family history as members struggle through historic challenges: the end of the American frontier, the dawn of the railroad travel that wove Midwest communities together, World War I, and the social mores of the 1920s and 1930s. The Huttleston family, whose son, Lloyd, is mentally retarded, struggles to cope with the difficulties encountered with his care. After he is diagnosed schizophrenic and institutionalized. Lloyd dies during shock therapy. The Fading of Lloyd poses many questions by revealing a family’s journey with mental retardation and the actions of an insane asylum in early 20th century. Armed with today’s knowledge, this journey is filled with tragic realizations and even horror at what were considered “norms” at the time
At first, I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was a non-fiction story, a fictonal story, or a fictional story based on real-life events and people. There were no genre tags listed on Goodreads so I basically went in blind. I noticed as I was reading that there were actual pictures of real people labeled as the characters in the book, so I was beginning to believe that it was either a non-fiction story or a story based on real people. I finally got my answer at the end of the book. The afterword told me all I needed to know. I only wish the genre would have been listed on Goodreads and that maybe the afterword could have been completely moved to the beginning of the book as a foreward so I could know exactly what was based in fact and what wasn’t. Reading the afterword you find out that the story is fictionalized but some of the characters are based on the author’s family. The main character, Lloyd, is modeled after Kit Crumpton’s uncle. It is true that he died in the Elgin State Hospital from “exhaustion incidental to psychosis.”
The story opens with Lloyd’s death scene; in a state hospital during an insulin shock therapy treatment. I think this was a great opening. It grabbed my attention right away. We find out Lloyd was admitted to Elgin State Hospital on the basis that he was an “imbecile”, those days terms for an intellectually disabled person. Later on, his doctor diagnoses him as a schizophrenic. This leads to the shock therapy that killed him in the end. As the book continues on, it goes through Lloyd’s family history, starting with his grandfather, working its way up to his death. After Lloyd’s death, the story continues on with his family dealing with the guilt for what happened to Lloyd and how each parent had a part in it. This is a story about how certain events and life choices can affect an entire person’s life. In this case, for the worst, as these choices led to Lloyd’s premature death.
There were a couple characters that I would have liked to see their stories completely flushed out and given some closure. We were introduced to Eddie, who works at the Elgin State Hospital and Kimberly, a patient at the hospital, but we never find out how their stories end. We were left hanging. I am interested in hearing about these characters and how they ended up.
Overall, this was an entertaining read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about stories about family histories or anyone interested in how intellectually disabled people were treated back in the 1930s and 1940s. I rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5.
Thank you to the author for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.