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Riding with the Ghost

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An unflinching memoir about a writer reckoning with his relationship with his troubled father and the complicated legacy that each generation hands down to the next "Justin Taylor's relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and An unflinching memoir about a writer reckoning with his relationship with his troubled father and the complicated legacy that each generation hands down to the next "Justin Taylor's relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and literature."--Lauren Groff, author of Florida When Justin Taylor was thirty, his father, Larry, drove to the top of the Nashville airport parking garage to take his own life. Thanks to the intervention of family members, he was not successful, but the incident would forever transform how Taylor thinks of his father, and how he thinks of himself as a son. Moving back and forth in time from that day, Riding with the Ghost captures the past's power to shape, strengthen, and distort our visions of ourselves and one another. We see Larry as the middle child in a chilly Long Island family; as a beloved Little League coach who listens to kids with patience and curiosity; as an unemployed father struggling to keep his marriage together while battling long-term illness and depression. At the same time, Taylor explores how the work of confronting a family member's story forces a reckoning with your own. We see Taylor as a teacher, modeling himself after his dad's best qualities; as a caregiver, attempting to provide his father with emotional and financial support, but not always succeeding; as a new husband, with a dawning awareness of his own depressive tendencies; as a man, struggling to understand his relationship to his religion and himself. With raw intimacy, Riding with the Ghost lays bare the joys and burdens of loving a troubled family member. It's a memoir about fathers and sons, teachers and students, faith and illness, and the pieces of our loved ones that we carry with us.


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An unflinching memoir about a writer reckoning with his relationship with his troubled father and the complicated legacy that each generation hands down to the next "Justin Taylor's relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and An unflinching memoir about a writer reckoning with his relationship with his troubled father and the complicated legacy that each generation hands down to the next "Justin Taylor's relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and literature."--Lauren Groff, author of Florida When Justin Taylor was thirty, his father, Larry, drove to the top of the Nashville airport parking garage to take his own life. Thanks to the intervention of family members, he was not successful, but the incident would forever transform how Taylor thinks of his father, and how he thinks of himself as a son. Moving back and forth in time from that day, Riding with the Ghost captures the past's power to shape, strengthen, and distort our visions of ourselves and one another. We see Larry as the middle child in a chilly Long Island family; as a beloved Little League coach who listens to kids with patience and curiosity; as an unemployed father struggling to keep his marriage together while battling long-term illness and depression. At the same time, Taylor explores how the work of confronting a family member's story forces a reckoning with your own. We see Taylor as a teacher, modeling himself after his dad's best qualities; as a caregiver, attempting to provide his father with emotional and financial support, but not always succeeding; as a new husband, with a dawning awareness of his own depressive tendencies; as a man, struggling to understand his relationship to his religion and himself. With raw intimacy, Riding with the Ghost lays bare the joys and burdens of loving a troubled family member. It's a memoir about fathers and sons, teachers and students, faith and illness, and the pieces of our loved ones that we carry with us.

30 review for Riding with the Ghost

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    In this thoughtfully written contemplative philosophical tribute, “Riding With The Ghost: A Memoir” (2020) author Justin Taylor delves into the physical and psychological meaning and decline of his late father Larry Taylor-- following the impact of his attempted suicide in a Nashville parking garage (2013). In addition, Taylor weaves a narrative of becoming a writer, fiction editor, and instructor for several MFA writing programs and workshops throughout the country. His writing has been feature In this thoughtfully written contemplative philosophical tribute, “Riding With The Ghost: A Memoir” (2020) author Justin Taylor delves into the physical and psychological meaning and decline of his late father Larry Taylor-- following the impact of his attempted suicide in a Nashville parking garage (2013). In addition, Taylor weaves a narrative of becoming a writer, fiction editor, and instructor for several MFA writing programs and workshops throughout the country. His writing has been featured in several notable publications, he is the author of “The Gospel of Anarchy: A Novel” (2011) and several short story collections. He lives with his wife in Portland, Oregon. In recalling the father of his youth, Larry was fully engaged in the life of his two children: he coached on youth sports teams, took them camping, helped with homework and encouraged his son’s writing projects. If anyone in their circle needed help, Larry was likely to come to their aid. Years later, after Justin had married, it wasn’t as easy to comprehend his parent’s marriage, it’s unforeseen slow decent, ending in divorce. His mother was the family’s sole support for a decade, bravely trying to work through their lack of resources, she had married Larry as a teen. Taylor and his sister never noticed or missed Larry’s parents who rudely disowned their son for failing to loan them money! Larry’s struggle with his mental and physical health included a torturous diagnosis of Parkinson Disease. As a writing instructor at The Pratt Institute (2011), Taylor wrote of the “pseudo-parent” of the student-teacher dynamic, also of his student and friend Eli Todd, who later died of a heroin overdose. Once, Taylor interviewed Jason Molina (1973-2013) of Ohia, who was greatly surprised that Taylor sought out meanings to his lyrics, (the title of this book is after a Molina song). Taylor, his sister Melanie (an attorney) and his wife Amanda sorted through Larry’s belongings at his Florida condo, following his death on March 24, 2017, the “silver-lining illness narrative” was never necessary. All his father needed from them was understanding, compassion, and on occasion, a Target gift card. Although their worst fears were realized and he had sadly died alone-- it was a startling revelation to learn that all he had ever wanted and hoped for was for his children to find happiness and success. ~ **With thanks to Random House via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fran Burdsall

    If you have lost a parent, especially a father, this book will ring true to the experience. Justin uses his writing skills to deal with his father's death by exploring his life, his experiences with death, his religion, and his father's life. I was especially moved by his description of the loss, the coming to grips with how his life was changing in the absence of his father. Although depressing in some ways, it chronicles the journey into adulthood and the journey through grief.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This book shows how hard relationships can be, especially ones where mental illness is such an issue. What a relief that he was able to keep his father from dying by suicide. It did like this book to an extent but I had trouble with the writing style and it didn't hold my interest as much as other memoirs.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Zecker

    Justin Taylor’s Riding with the Ghost takes its title from a Jason Molina song of the same name, and explores Taylor's journey as he mourns and copes with the death of his father in much the same melancholy vibrancy and foggy revelation as the distant echo of Molina’s voice. At the beginning of this memoir, Taylor introduces his complicated relationship with his father by informing us his father unsuccessfully tried to kill himself by throwing himself off of a parking garage, and was only succes Justin Taylor’s Riding with the Ghost takes its title from a Jason Molina song of the same name, and explores Taylor's journey as he mourns and copes with the death of his father in much the same melancholy vibrancy and foggy revelation as the distant echo of Molina’s voice. At the beginning of this memoir, Taylor introduces his complicated relationship with his father by informing us his father unsuccessfully tried to kill himself by throwing himself off of a parking garage, and was only successful in his second attempt later. The linear plot of this story on the surface is how Taylor and his sister worked through their father’s belongings, his difficulties, his various moves, and his emotional struggles after his divorce from their mother – all while Taylor hopped from state to state for work and tries his best to honor his marriage still in its infancy. The true beauty of this piece lies in Taylor’s interior philosophical musings as he processes so many of life’s great reckonings in this short time period, however. This book is a deep reflection on every element of his life during this tragic and traumatic time in his relationship with his father. Taylor discusses his childhood, as he and his siblings feared the man that so captivated their love and attention. Taylor examines his relationship with his mother and siblings, his relationship with his wife, his relationship with his work as a writer. Taylor explores his (our) belief system, deeply, and its relationship with our culture and why we do what we do and what it has to do with death and the struggle to stay alive and engage in difficult times, even if we interact with it in a completely secular manner. And Taylor doesn’t just explore his relationship with his father’s death, but the deaths of David Berman, Jason Molina, and perhaps most importantly, the death of a student with whom Taylor had a very close relationship, Eli. Taylor also explores his professional and interpersonal relationship with the practice of teaching writing, and how relationships in the classroom can bloom into one of the closest and most meaningful intimate relationships a teacher and student can share. This is an incredible book, and while my father is still very much alive, Taylor’s piece resonated with me deeply in my relationship with my late mother – who also suffered from Parkinson's, depression, divorce, suicide ideation, and a helpless failure to thrive over decades leading to her death. The Jewish life, the life as an educator, and my own super fandom of Berman, Pavement, and Molina made this memoir a gorgeous and deeply moving memoir for me. I don’t see this being a book for everyone, but it is a beautifully masculine mediation on work, family, education, relationships, religion, and death, and in Taylor’s hands, these subjects are handled candidly and expertly. He doesn’t attempt to have all of the answers in his writing, but it is his brilliant, concrete journey in prose and philosophy that make this an excellent reflection on this important era in his life. I want to end with some lyrics from Riding With The Ghost by the late Jason Molina... I'm running out of things/ I didn't even know I was using And while you've been busy / Learning how to complain I've been busy learning / How to make a change

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ivy

    Thank you to Random House for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on July 21st, 2020. This memoir by Justin Taylor provided an intriguing look into his own self, his relationship with his father, mental health, and the complex dynamics of family relationships, balancing what one wants versus what they feel obligated towards. While the book provided some interesting stories and streams of thoughts, it overall felt like a diary entry t Thank you to Random House for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on July 21st, 2020. This memoir by Justin Taylor provided an intriguing look into his own self, his relationship with his father, mental health, and the complex dynamics of family relationships, balancing what one wants versus what they feel obligated towards. While the book provided some interesting stories and streams of thoughts, it overall felt like a diary entry that I had intrusively stumbled upon. The memoir was formatted to go back and forth between many different times in Taylor's life, whether that be when he was a child, a teenager, an adult, or current day. Sometimes it felt difficult to keep up with, as well as scattered to the point of not quite understanding what tangent was going on and why. While I learned a lot about the author's life, I still felt disconnected to him by the end of the book, not totally knowing what I was supposed to walk away with from his story. I would have preferred a more structured narrative, rather than a diary-esque format, but overall I applaud the author's vulnerability and honesty with mental health and the brutal honesty of family relationships.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eric Hollen

    “Riding with the Ghost” is about Justin’s relationship with his father who, one summer day, attempts suicide by jumping off the top level of the parking garage at the Nashville airport. He’s stopped, and what follows in the next 200 pages is a mediation on pain, family, love, the relationships between fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, teachers and students. Taylor has a memoirist eye; he knows when he’s bullshitting and calls himself out on it; he’s also very perceptive in how we formulate “Riding with the Ghost” is about Justin’s relationship with his father who, one summer day, attempts suicide by jumping off the top level of the parking garage at the Nashville airport. He’s stopped, and what follows in the next 200 pages is a mediation on pain, family, love, the relationships between fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, teachers and students. Taylor has a memoirist eye; he knows when he’s bullshitting and calls himself out on it; he’s also very perceptive in how we formulate narratives and in how he approaches them. The timeline for the book, which follows his relationship with his father, grows, and incorporates other aspects; growing up Jewish, his relationship with his wife (and a wonderful cross country trip), a mediation on parenting, a loss of a close student and friend who overdosed on heroin, car rides listening to his dads old CDs. Life, joy, love, despair, suffering - it’s all in it, a wheel of life. By the end of the book I felt like I knew the author, and was grateful for whatever snippets of wisdom, experience, sensation, he was willing to offer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas W

    It's hard right now to describe my feelings about this book. I experienced very similar health and mental declines in my stepfather--a man that was more my father than my blood-dad. So, much of this book felt like a PTSD flashback. I don't know that I was mentally or emotionally ready for that right now. Even though it has been 5 years since I had to let Pop go. Oof.... yeah. Losing a parent is hard. I think, in time, this will be one of my most favorite books. But right now..... it's too much t It's hard right now to describe my feelings about this book. I experienced very similar health and mental declines in my stepfather--a man that was more my father than my blood-dad. So, much of this book felt like a PTSD flashback. I don't know that I was mentally or emotionally ready for that right now. Even though it has been 5 years since I had to let Pop go. Oof.... yeah. Losing a parent is hard. I think, in time, this will be one of my most favorite books. But right now..... it's too much to process.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Russell Ricard

    Justin Taylor’s Riding with the Ghost is a meditative, tender memoir. Self-reflective prose balanced with an intellectual exploration of loss, grief, and delve into one’s childhood versus adulthood self with regard to parent-child relationships. A haunting yet comforting reminder to have faith that we human beings are complex, ever evolving creatures responsible for nurturing our own legacies.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pj Gaumond

    This is an advance uncorrected proof and I won it through Goodreads. This was a very heartfelt read mostly about a son and his father and the trials and turbulation of a less than perfect relationship. The book goes back and forth between years and at first it was a bit strange but the farther I got into the book the more it made sense to write the book this way. I really enjoyed the read and would certainly recommend it to others.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thanks GR! It took me forever to finish this book! I kept putting it down and picking up other books. This read more like a diary or journal than a memoir. It wasn't bad, just not my style.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    Honest, heartbreaking. Taylor’s memoir of his complex relationship with his father is outstanding. Perhaps most notable is his unflinching portrayal of his own faults.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kayo

    Thanks to author,publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    The author looks at his complicated relationship with his father, before and after his father’s aborted suicide attempt. It feels like honesty is on every page.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jules Writes Stuff

    This memoir is full of rich imagery and is deeply personal. Where it falters for me is how it discusses the events of the author's life. In many ways it reads like he took a look at his life, sucked all the emotions he actually felt at the time out, and replaced it with what he thought a person in his shoes would feel. The emotion is there, and he goes there in terms of what he's willing to discuss, but it feels hollow somehow, especially towards the end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    S

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracy O'Neill

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rapp

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  19. 5 out of 5

    Meryl

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robby

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adam Wilson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harry

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  25. 4 out of 5

    M

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jill Pfuetze Schmidt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jomayer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Bundy

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