cover image Chasing Ghosts: A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War

Chasing Ghosts: A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War

Louise DeSalvo. Fordham Univ., $24.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-8232-6884-9

Prolific author/memoirist DeSalvo (Vertigo) focuses her latest work on her father, Louis DeSalvo, a WWII veteran who died in 2005. DeSalvo first takes readers through his early life in North Bergen, N.J., describing his devoted mother and violent, philandering father, both from Italy. In 1935, Louis joined the Navy, hoping to escape his father’s temper. He lacked a high school degree, so his dream of becoming a pilot was thwarted, but his knowledge of mechanics led to the job of aviation machinist, and his skills would become even more valuable when he was called back for a second tour of duty in the Admiralties during WWII. After the war, DeSalvo asserts, her father was a different man: angry, easily enraged. The author’s relationship with her father was stormy—he once came at her with a kitchen knife—and she remained mystified as to why he blamed her for the family’s many problems (her mother was depressive, her younger sister committed suicide as an adult). Although she describes her father as a harsh man, DeSalvo also unveils his softer side: his love for his grandsons, his charming courtship of her mother, and his loyalty to his family. This painstakingly researched work not only explores a daughter’s love for her father but also probes the dire effects of war (and particularly of WWII) on families, exposing the deeper “wounds of the soul” suffered by both soldiers and their loved ones. [em](Oct.) [/em]