A novelist and poet tells the fragmented story of how she came to terms with the suicides of her father and then her mother.
The memoir opens with an 18-year-old McBride (The Fire Opal, 2012, etc.) in a psychiatric hospital struggling to cope with the deaths of her parents. Moving back and forth through time, the author examines her past in an attempt to understand it and the parents who shaped it. The daughter of two Irish Catholic parents who “lov[ed] and miss[ed]” an Ireland they had never seen, McBride bore witness to the traumatic disintegration of her family over time. The problems began when her father, Vincent, did not get the well-paying job he and McBride’s mother, Barbara, expected. The family was forced to move out of the big house in Yonkers that her parents had bought in expectation of Vincent’s success. They traveled to Santa Fe along with McBride’s senile, often cruel grandmother Nanny. Meanwhile, Vincent continued to struggle professionally. Unable to advance in his career, he took a second job as a bartender and began to drift into alcoholism while Barbara became increasingly unstable and Nanny more demented and embittered. After Nanny’s death, the situation between McBride’s parents only worsened, with Barbara threatening suicide and becoming more violent toward her husband, who eventually shot himself. Five months later, Barbara shot herself as well and “died without a face.” Haunted both literally and figuratively by her parents’ ghosts, McBride eventually sold everything she owned and moved to Ireland, where she was determined to live and make peace with her parents and her past. Harrowing yet beautiful, the book is not only an exploration of the interplay between memory and imagination. It is also an eloquent meditation on the painful burdens of the past that parents bequeath their children.
A wrenchingly lyrical memoir of family and tragedy.