cover image Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir

Walking with Ghosts: A Memoir

Gabriel Byrne. Grove, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-80215-712-6

In this intimate memoir, Irish actor Byrne charts his rocky rise to stardom and his battles with alcoholism. An introvert and the eldest of eight siblings growing up in 1950s and ’60s working-class Dublin, Byrne was an altar boy who enrolled in seminary school at 11. But he quickly distanced himself from religion after being molested by a priest: “I’ve been picking at it with a pin ever since... afraid to use a jackhammer.” After leaving seminary, he worked odd jobs, joined an amateur theater group, and landed a role on The Riordans, an Irish soap opera, in the late ’70s. Though he was considered a sex symbol, Byrne writes of feeling insecure and unattractive thanks to “my thrice-broken nose and beetroot-colored face.” When, in 1995, Byrne achieved international stardom with The Usual Suspects, he hit rock bottom: one morning he woke up wearing a bloody shirt and shaking violently from alcohol withdrawal, and was jolted in terror when a woman whom he could not name stirred in the bed beside him. This led to him reaching for help and getting into a recovery program. Byrne writes with candor and an exceptional humility, and has an easy hand with clever turns of phrase. Simultaneously frank and emotionally stirring, this memoir entrances. (Jan.)