Ghost Songs: A Memoir

Ghost Songs: A Memoir

by Regina McBride
Ghost Songs: A Memoir

Ghost Songs: A Memoir

by Regina McBride


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A searingly beautiful coming-of-age memoir about a girl who begins to see her parents' ghosts after their tragic deaths.

An Editor's Pick and a Paris Review Staff Pick

Eighteen-year-old Regina McBride is haunted by the ghosts of her parents. Her father visits her—he is desperate, but she doesn’t know how to help him. Her mother is a quiet figure, obscured by light—a flash at the foot of the bed. Regina, raised Irish Catholic and with the ironclad belief that some sins are unforgivable, fears her parents are trapped between worlds, forever punished after they committed suicide within a few months of each other.

Terrorized by these visitations and flattened by grief, Regina slowly begins her hazardous journey to recovery. Lyrical and lovely, harrowing and haunting, Ghost Songs charts her struggle to separate madness from imagination and sorrow from devastation. From New York to the desert of New Mexico to the shores of Ireland, Regina searches for herself, her home, and a way to return to the family that remains. Ghost Songs is an exploration of memory, a meditation on love and loss, and, in the end, a celebration of life and the living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941040430
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication date: 10/04/2016
Pages: 350
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Regina McBride is the author of The Nature of Water and Air and The Land of Women. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the New York Foundation for the Arts, she lives in New York City.



Ghost Songsis a memoir in fragments, simultaneously charting your journey into young adulthood, the death of your parents, and some of your earliest memories of your family. What was your process for writing this book? How long did it take you to write all of this, and when did it begin to settle into the form it’s in today?

It took me approximately eight years to write this book. It went through many forms and many drafts. The first two years were just about trying to write what I remembered and that was mostly excruciating. I was not sure I could do it. At first, what I had was a linear narrative, which did not feel right. I wanted more freedom to move around in time, but I was also concerned that it be clear enough for the reader. My wonderful editor, Masie Cochran, encouraged me to play more with the form. Working with her on structuring and crafting the book was very exciting.

What attracted you to a more fragmented, experimental form rather than a more traditional memoir form?

The narrative does have a forward story: the six years immediately after my parents’ deaths, but this is broken all the way through with memories from all different times in my life and with the only order being emotional rather than chronological. I was attracted to this because it felt organic to the real experience. And it is the nature of memory to be so fluid.

Music and poetry are prevalent in your memories of your family, particularly of your father, and the influence is clear in the lyricism of your writing. Did music have a direct impact on the way you approachedGhost Songs?

I think unconsciously music always affects my writing, or rather,language feels musical to me. I began my writing career as a poet so I am always conscious of the music in a line of prose. I am married to a musician and my daughter is a musician. Music is intimately a part of who I am.

What were some of your literary influences forGhost Songs?

Vladimir Nabokov’sSpeak Memoryhad a profound effect on me because of its intense atmosphere, detail and feeling. It may sound odd, butThe Loverby Marguerite Duras was a strong influence, not so much the story itself but the shape of the book. She moved all over in time with great freedom.

Where do you set ethical boundaries when it comes to writing about family? Was anyone in the book upset with your portrayal of them?

My siblings were very supportive, especially my sister, Tracy, who was very moved by the book. There were a few memories about my siblings that I had in earlier drafts written about, but opted not to include in the final draft. I think a memoir writer has to be careful not to include stories that belong more to someone else, unless they are vital to the memoir, and then it becomes a more complicated question. I would not want to intrude upon my siblings. My book was meant to be a love-letter, or perhaps a love song to my parents and siblings.

Interviewed by Stephanie Buckley.

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