A searingly beautiful coming-of-age memoir about a girl who begins to see her parents’ ghosts after their tragic deaths.
An Oprah.com 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.
Book groups will find much to discuss [… ]in this beautifully rendered work.
—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
In Regina McBride’s Ghost Songs, there is a mysterious alchemy at play. With a subtle hand, McBride transforms personal horror into poetic myth. In writing this story that happened to her in real time, she creates a book that feels timeless. I was under its spell from word one.
—Alice Sebeold, author of LUCKY
[A] soul-wrenching memoir. [A] powerful depiction of a teenager understanding the complexity of newfound adult responsibility, poverty, and her parents’ identity, while coming to terms with the trauma of loss and her encounters with the miraculous.
Dubbed a literary Maeve Binchy by an LJ reviewer for her affecting, lyrical fiction (e.g., The Nature of Water and Air), McBride will make you sit up straight with this startling memoir, grounded in singular sorrow: her parents committed suicide one after the other when she was only 16. McBride’s subsequent hunt for comfort and belonging took her from New York City to New Mexico to Ireland, where she reconnected with her roots and the gorgeous Irish lore that informs her writing. Yet she still had to contend with the painful recognition that Catholicism regards suicides as unpardonable sin.
It’s a wonder to me that after reading this book of such intense pain and deep sorrow that I felt—and know I’ll continue to feel—peace and hope. Regina McBride has written a beautiful memoir in which ghosts—individual and compound—can, like the living, be transformed from that which we fear to that which we might accept and love.
—Michael Thomas, author of MAN GONE DOWN
“In Ghost Songs, Regina McBride embarks on a brave journey, around Ireland and into the heart of familial loss. Each stop is vividly rendered and gracefully observed. This is a beautiful memoir, as deft and wise as it is elementally sad.”
—Alexandra Styron, author of READING MY FATHER