Ghost Songs: A Memoir by Regina McBride

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“Je reviens,” I imagine him saying. I shall return to you.

This memoir has a disjointed quality that works beautifully. Somehow, this makes the reader feel as if they too are experiencing McBride’s state of mind. I caught my breath thinking of the loss of her parents to the ‘sin’ of suicide. I felt consumed by the beast of grief that was weighing on her soul. Time jumps, and the telling isn’t a clear timeline- which makes the chaos of memory and feeling more vivid. Childhood memories flicker in and out, as they do for most people. We don’t often think in a timely order, and when tragedy strikes we can’t control what we remember of our loved ones. I think of her mother’s ‘upsets’ and how it sits with a child even into adulthood when we shuck off our youth. It’s heavy… love.

Regina is struggling out of an abyss. She is visited by her parent’s ghosts, but aren’t our memories ghosts too?  She is searching but for what? To understand? To find her parents and know they aren’t damned?  Breaking inside, disconnecting from the loved ones that remain, fighting beliefs, trying to make sense of the senseless- it is more than loss. Regina takes not just a physical journey, but an internal one. Who is to blame for what happened? Does it matter when it’s done? I found the many incidents heartbreaking,  imaging the people who are supposed to be your rock losing their grip. Be it illness or circumstance, and I do feel for the parents too, but it’s different for children. It changes you living with unstable parents, and the love, there is still this intense love that is a mass of confusion in the mind. Love, resentment, hurt, shame… we love the damaged sometimes more intensely, because we spend so much time trying to understand. Reading that her father was a dreamer, how did he get from there to such a dark place. It’s all moments, isn’t it? Life. Moments.

It is a hard review to write. This is an emotional memoir, it is heavy and yet somehow promising too. She is absent, but she knows… there is still love, living to be done, a family… she still has a family.

Tin House Books  Publication Date: October 4, 2016

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