My Father's Ghost: The Return of My Old Man and Other Second Chances

My Father's Ghost: The Return of My Old Man and Other Second Chances

by Suzy McKee Charnas
     
 

"My Father's Ghost" is a wise woman's look at a "failed" father-daughter relationship—how it hurt, how it healed, and how, ultimately and in unexpected ways, the problem father became the daughter's strength. My Father's Ghost will be an inspiration to anyone who is dealing with a parent's aging or approaching death, and fans of this splended

Overview

"My Father's Ghost" is a wise woman's look at a "failed" father-daughter relationship—how it hurt, how it healed, and how, ultimately and in unexpected ways, the problem father became the daughter's strength. My Father's Ghost will be an inspiration to anyone who is dealing with a parent's aging or approaching death, and fans of this splended writer will find her at her best here." (Sarah Smith, author of A Citizen of the Country)

"In My Father's Ghost Suzy McKee Charnas reveals a father-daughter relationship at levels recognized only by the heart...she communicates the fears and wishes that surround dying in a personal and uplifting story. I recommend this book to all." (Daniel Hays, author of My Old Man and the Sea)

"My Father's Ghost is a thoughtful, sad and loving study of the life and death of a brilliant and troublesome man. You'll be glad you read it. (Tony Hillerman) When Suzy McKee Charnas realized that her father could no longer care for himself on his own, she invited him to come live in the old adobe "in-law" cottage beside her own in New Mexico. My Father's Ghost skillfully traces a parent-child relationship inverted by the changes of aging.

Over the last seventeen years of her father's life-as she drove him to the grocery store, to the bank, or picked him up off the floor after he had fallen-Charnas struggled to understand this man whose former artistic ambition seemed to hang like a shadow over his old age. She reflects on the difficulties inherent in their situation even as she reveals that her father's inability to care for himself afforded them the opportunity to bridge a gap that might easily never have been mended.

A moving portrait of the last chapter in a father-daughter relationship and of the divide between the person we are in our youth and who we become in our old age, My Father's Ghost will resonate deeply with anyone facing old age or caring for an elderly loved one.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Charnas's memoir of her father Robin's demise begins with the flashbulb moment where she realizes he can't live independently anymore. She asks him to read back the telephone number she has just given him and he responds simply "I didn't get it... I can't see to write it down." Charnas recalls, "I got a sinking feeling. My father was living in a loft on Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. I now lived in an adobe house in Albuquerque. My husband and I were launching new careers.... There was no money to spare for flying back and forth to New York." Charnas, a Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy novelist, barely hesitates before inviting Robin, whom she hardly knew as a child, to come live in the "in-law" cottage next to her own home. What follows is a moving, thoughtful, sometimes tedious but never sentimental account of how daughter and father get to know each other in middle and old age. Book One lingers a bit too long on Charnas's childhood and opaque, rambling excerpts from Robin's journals. It's clear that she's just trying to paint a clear picture of her curmudgeonly father. But Book Two, which chronicles Robin's time in a nursing home, is much stronger. Here, Robin's unique combination of eccentricity and strength speaks for itself, especially when he's quietly holding hands with his new girlfriend, Jane. Charnas's story is bound to be a guidebook and an inspiration for anyone caring for aging parents. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Blurbs from Tony Hillerman and Peter Straub could make this popular among baby boomers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From SF novelist Charnas (The Conquerer's Child, 1999, etc.), a true and tender account of caring for her aging father from the time of his truculent arrival at her home to his irascible last illness and death. Robinson McKee left his wife and children when Suzy was only eight to live the bohemian life of a painter in Greenwich Village. Although they were in touch over the years, this was a man the author "barely knew" when she invited him in 1973 to leave his rundown New York studio to live with her and her husband in New Mexico. Robin would have his own house on her Albuquerque property and a view of the Sandia mountains bathed in the extraordinary southwestern light. He came, and for nearly 20 years Charnas struggled to know him, please him, laugh at his jokes, get him to paint, exercise, take a bath, and, finally, to let him die. He spent his last year in a nursing home, where a miracle of sorts occurred. He fell in love with a patient, Jane, who returned his affection; they spent their days together, with Robin often ensconced in Jane's wheelchair by her bedside. He mellowed and spruced up his grooming, ate better, and, encouraged by Jane, voted in a presidential election for the first time. He died in January 1993, leaving Charnas with his cat and 40 volumes of journals that he kept from 1930 until a few years before he moved in with her. The author makes good use of entries from these journals, full of amusing, brittle, sad, and hopeful anecdotes and musings, epigrams, and reflections on art and life. She intersperses them among her own memories and journal excerpts to capture the mix of guilt, longing, impatience, and empathy that characterized their relationship. Anyone who hascared for aging and ill parents will recognize and perhaps be comforted by this frank delineation of the mixed emotions called up by the death of a father.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585421855
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/30/2002
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.13(d)

What People are saying about this

Peter Straub
A supremely unsentimental, beautifully observed, and forgiving memoir.
Claire Berman
...painfully honest and deeply touching....A personal journey that speaks to us all.
James Morrow
...his daughter conveys each lesson with an unflinching eye, a knowing voice, and a forgiving heart.
Jack Williamson
This is a book for today. Written honestly and plainly, it llluminates a universal problem.

Meet the Author

Suzy McKee Charnas is the Nebula Award-winning author of twelve science fiction and fantasy novels.

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