cover image Riding with the Ghost: A Memoir

Riding with the Ghost: A Memoir

Justin Taylor. Random House, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-12929-6

A writer grapples with the legacy of his father’s depression and his own shadow self in this lucid memoir of connection, family, and loss. Taylor (The Gospel of Anarchy) kicks off with a riveting account of his father Larry’s attempted suicide in 2013 at a parking garage, which reverberates with pity, helplessness, and sarcasm (“he was pretty sure [the parking garage roof] was tall enough to do the job”). From there, Taylor shifts to the story of his family in southern Florida, where his parents’ “working-class romance” turned problematic as the intensely intelligent Larry’s career prospects narrowed due to his belligerence and a “massive, killing pride.” Describing his own halting passage from being a squatter punk to an inconsistently employed but generally content writer, professor, and husband, Taylor finds more empathy for Larry’s depression as he sees its longer arc and parallels to his own life. Though the subject matter is weighty and knotty, Taylor’s approach is light; he has a knack for unobtrusive description (referring to staying at a chain hotel as being “like falling asleep inside a piece of clip art”) and sudden flashes of cutting insight (“How do you save a drowning man who doesn’t want a life preserver?”). This is an astute and balanced memoir that finds grace in appreciating another’s pain. (July)