This is a review of a memoir, My Father’s Ghost,(Tarcher, 2002) by well known science fiction/fantasy writer Suzy McKee Charnas.
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 Manhattan 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 three 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.
Note: Ms Charnas is the author of two critically acclaimed vampire novels: The Vampire Tapestry, and The Ruby Tear (writing as Rebecca Brand), as well as Stagestruck Vampires and Other Phantasms – a collection of short stories and essays.