Dr. Michael L. Nahrwold’s “A Lesson from the Raintree” (Medical Sentinel, Summer 1996) is excellent, and particularly relevant to me. Ross Lockridge’s 1947 novel Raintree County is indeed one of America’s greatest novels, ranking, in my view, alongside Huckleberry Finn. Larry Lockridge’s recent examination of his father’s life, and his suicide immediately after the novel’s appearance, when the world seemed within his hand, is also excellent, as Dr. Nahrwold points out.
I suspect a major reason for Ross’ suicide was the mental confusion produced by electroshock treatment. Ernest Hemingway also committed suicide after electroshock treatment because of the confusion. In the early 1940s, Ross Lockridge was my wife’s teacher at Simmons College, Boston, and I met him once or twice. He was a lovely, charming man. We rejoiced at his success and his suicide shocked us both. Larry’s book explains clearly what happened. His father’s superb novel deserves our continued attention and can indeed serve as a comforter in times of trouble, as Dr. Nahrwold suggests.
Nathaniel S. Lehrman, MD
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1997;2(1):2. Copyright ©1997 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.