ghost songs

Ghost Songs: A Memoir by Regina McBride

Tin House has quickly become one of my favourite publishers, and Ghost Songs only bolsters this love affair. 

It's difficult to recommend this memoir without concerns for spoilers. I can't think of the last time I read anything quite like this. 

McBride's parents both committed suicide within a few months of one another when she was seventeen, leaving behind her and three siblings. The book opens with her checking herself into the hospital, ostensibly for being unable to stop crying, but the ultimate truth is that she'd been increasingly experiencing visitations from spectral figures, including sounds and smells. As the book reveals the backstory of her parents and siblings, the reader senses that perhaps she sought help for other concerns as well, whether or not she was strong enough (or perceptive enough at that age and mired in grief) to share them with the doctor, who definitely comes across as dense and clueless and unconcerned.  

Ghost Songs is both deeply affecting and also quiet and meandering. Somewhere along the way, I read a review where someone complained about a lack of "plot" and the disjointed narrative. I'm not sure what they thought they were getting into, but it's not the sort of book that necessitates a plot and, beyond that, it is actually finely structured. I'm the queen of complaining about disjoined narratives but I didn't find that to be the case here - everything that is included feels either ultimately pertinent to the events she relates or is simply strong enough to stand on it's own as a vivid and illuminating scene.  

One of my favourite books so far this year. Adored and highly recommended.