My Mother's Ghost

Fergus M. Bordewich, Author
Fergus M. Bordewich, Author Doubleday Books $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-49129-7
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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At age 14, Bordewich (Killing the White Man's Indian) witnessed his beloved mother's fatal fall from her runaway horse--and her accidental landing beneath the hooves of his own galloping horse, which he had urged forward in an attempt to help her. An only child, he had been unusually close to his mother, viewing her as ""bold and courageous and indefatigable""--very different from his father. She was, indeed, a remarkable woman: intelligent, well-educated and passionate about her work on behalf of Native American tribes in the early 1960s, often traveling alone and fearlessly standing up to both Indian chiefs and congressmen who were suspicious of her motives as a diminutive blonde woman of Irish descent. The core of his account is more biography than memoir, as professional journalist Bordewich delves into his mother's world, ferreting through dusty boxes and yellowed library archives, interviewing octogenarians who remembered his mother from New York University, the Association on American Indian Affairs (which she directed for many years) and the reservations she had frequently visited, sometimes accompanied by her son. Through a synthesis of memory and investigation, the author is able to reconstruct an image of a woman who was not only the confident, heroic figure he admired, but who also had a darker side, and whose world was quickly falling apart (the end of her marriage, the loss of her lover) just before her tragic death. Returning to the Vermont vacation home of his youth with his own family, Bordewich finds that fatherhood finally allows him to let go of the past and releases him from his guilty obsession with his mother's death. Agent, Carl Brandt of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agency. (Dec. 26)
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