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My Fathers Ghost [Hardcover]

Suzy Charnas
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2002
"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.

Product Details


Product Description

From 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When science fiction author Charnas realizes her artist-father can no longer remain alone in his Greenwich Village loft, she has him live with her and her husband in an "in-law" adobe on their Albuquerque property. That final homecoming, far from his beloved New York, is the focus of his daughter's memoir, one rich with flashbacks to her baffling divorce, her childhood, and her sister's relationship with their father, the most difficult man in her life. In the present, Charnas' father refuses to wash his long, greasy hair; he fears that to do so will result in baldness, but what does result is cradle cap, a scalp infection associated with poor hygienic care of infants. He manages to drive--barely--and relies increasingly on Charnas for trips to the grocery store within the narrow time frame when he will be sure to find blueberry muffins there. Throughout, Charnas' beautifully written rendering of this father-daughter duo's humanity holds our attention on the sometimes elusive, often baffling bonds that make a family. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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5.0 out of 5 stars Our fathers' ghosts, too Jan. 29 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is a story about real life. An artist father of a writer daughter. A father who walked away when she was eight. A father who in his last decade of life became dependant on his daughter, the stranger.

Don't expect saccharine, 'cause there ain't any. No sugar cookies and milk, this is molasses and tea: bitter, dark, and poignant. Revelations, yes, but not of the TV sitcom kind, which are easily provoked and resolved in half an hour. This is deep history, it's the sand in the backyard and the gnarled old olive tree.

It's a story told with exasperation and something like love. A story told brilliantly. Thought-provoking reading for those of us with parents heading into their last decade -- parents with whom we share a bad history.

Here's a woman who offers refuge to a man who is going blind, and who holds a menial job in a restaurant. She offers him a free home in the sunshine, and the chance to do art.

He arrives on her doorstep and proceeds to be exactly the same man he's always been: cantankerous, rude, and skeptical. He doesn't do any art -- not by choice, as it turns out. He doesn't have the emotional resources to make friends and have his own life. Heck, he doesn't even have the ability to make his own dinner.

It's a fascinating story, and Charnas is an amazing writer. We get an unvarnished portrait of this man, his daughter, and a series of glimmers into why he left her mother, and why he's such a crank. If another living situation would have been ideal, well that's too bad because they're caught in the vise-grip of American medical economics. He's here to stay, like it or not.
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Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, and hard to compare to any other. Sort of a biography (but of an unknown man, a failed artist, someone without any of the usual qualities calling for an official biography), sort of an autobiography/literary memoir (by the author of hard-hitting feminist science fiction, fantasy, children's books, etc.), a personal investigation into what happens to the old and helpless in America, a daughter's memoir of her difficult father... I'm not usually attracted to memoirs, but like Suzy Charnas' fiction so much that I gave it a chance -- and am so glad I did. It is every bit as gripping and absorbing as one of her novels, and, amazingly for a work that focuses so much on her father's declining years, it's not at all bleak -- there are some unexpected surprises along the way, and the lasting impression is an uplifting one. The book raises many important issues around family relationships and aging in America today; it's thought-provoking, and informative, whatever your age and whatever your relationship to your parents. (Well, perhaps the super-rich and the extra-young could give it a miss, but as for the rest of us, this book is important.) Undoubtedly, one of the best books I've read this year. In non-fiction, it goes right up there with Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed". Highly recommended.
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By C. Penn
Format:Hardcover
Suzy McKee Charnas always had a difficult relationship with her father Robin McKee who walked out when she was eight. Robin left behind 40 black bound journals containing mostly left-wing political ranting and long discussions on painters and paint, along with an occasional wisecrack. From her few childhood memories, thoughts gleaned from the journals, and the time from when Robin was 63 until his death at 81, Charnas constructs a haunting memoir. MY FATHER'S GHOST becomes a reflective, honest, and at times painful account of the journey from aging to dying.
Robin eked out a living in Greenwich Village maintaining sporadic contact with his children. He was a man of extraordinary intelligence who had lived in true Bohemian poverty. Indeed, Robin sacrificed all for his good taste and artistic talent even while his career was unsuccessful. Then one day during a phone call with Charnas, Robin indicates that he is going blind. His daughter encourages him to retire, moving him to Albuquerque, New Mexico to live in a nearby "in-law" cottage. It seemed like a golden opportunity to get her lost father back -- a second chance for a father-daughter relationship.
Charnas weathers the difficulties of living close to an aging parent with grace. She struggles with meals, housekeeping, and personal hygiene, and she worries over health issues and finances. During the first half of the book, her father coexists nearby, but the second half of the book confronts the inevitable deteriorating health and nursing homes. Throughout the memoir, Charnas recounts challenges, the pain, and the guilt of coping with an aging parent. Surprisingly, Robin finds his own second chances when he moves into a nursing home, lending the conclusion unexpected beauty and hope.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Memoir Nov. 7 2002
Format:Hardcover
When Suzy McKee Charnas was eight years-old her father, Robin McKee, left her, her mother and sister to dedicate his life to being an artist. He was spectacularly unsuccessful. Contact with his children was intermittent but never broken. Several years later realizing that Robin was living a meager existence in Manhatten and had problems caring for himself as he entered old age, Charnas invites him to live with her and her husband in New Mexico. Surprisingly he accepts.
Charnas writes eloquently and honestly of life with a father that in many ways was a stranger to her. Robin was taciturn, difficult and not prone to sentimentality, but there were moments when he and Suzy connected in ways she had never imagined possible.
The second section of this memoir covers the last 3 years of Robin's life. His health has declined to such a degree that Charnas must find a nursing home for him. After a long search she finds an affordable place with a caring staff. The transition for both father and daughter is difficult, but even here, in the unlikeliest of places, there is a ray of light and hope no one could have imagined. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
I have long been an admirer of Charnas's science fiction and fantasy work. Here her novelist's eye paints a mesmerizing portrait of herself, her father and other fascinating characters in her life. I sat down one afternoon to read a few chapters and found myself so absorbed in this true and complex story that I literally could not put it down. It is truly a remarkable work.
Patricia Altner, author of Vampire Readings
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