My Mother’s Ghost: A Courageous Woman, a Son’s Love, and the Power of Memory

"Every few years, a book come along that wakes one up to the sheer joy of reading. This gripping, unforgettable memoir is just such a book."—Booklist (starred review)

Poet, classical scholar, radical, skilled political player in Eisenhower-era America: the author's mother, LaVerne Madigan Bordewich, had worked to get Japanese-Americans out of internment camps during World War II, and later led the only independent national organization working for the rights of Native Americans. Adventurous of spirit and fiercely independent, her travels took her from the Alaskan tundra to peyote rites on the Northern Plains, to the halls of Congress, until her sudden death under the hooves of a horse on a Vermont road, in 1962. The author, her son, then fourteen years old, was the only witness. My Mother’s Ghost, is both a relentless investigation into the long-buried life of the remarkable woman who died that day and a culmination of the author's decades-long effort to come to terms with her death. It is also a deeply-felt examination of love, death, memory, and the myths that we weave around the beloved dead.

In the course of My Mother’s Ghost, Fergus Bordewich, now a father himself, decided to use his investigative skills as a journalist to find out what his flesh and blood mother, as opposed to his memories of her, was really like. Drawing upon poetry, interviews, newspaper articles, and personal memories, Bordewich painfully reconstructed the woman who has not left his mind for one day since 1962. My Mother’s Ghost is an emotionally wrenching story that pierces the heart, and is ultimately a triumphant affirmation of the healing power of love. Reading My Mother’s Ghost is like opening a Pandora’s box of emotions: love, obsession, guilt, pleasure, and the seduction of memory are all explored.

"The lessons of My Mother’s Ghost are many. It speaks of the power of death and memory, of will and chance, of hope and understanding." —Chicago Tribune

"No longer is LaVerne Madigan a half-stranger excavated from news archives and yellowing photos; she is my mother. She is at the center of everything, . . . inseparable from our street, from the ambience of rooms, from the feelings of certain hours of the day, and thus from time itself. She is infused like a vapor into everything I know. She is the bedrock, the Precambrian, upon which everything rests.” —Fergus Bordewich

"My Mother's Ghost is a stunning work. It is a deeply American, beautifully written, morally compelling memoir... the images of death in the tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne."—James Chace, author of What We Had

"Fergus Bordewich's book is how we'd speak if the dead were wise enough and loved enough and suffered enough to think they'd hear us...In its spare register it echoes back to what each of us knows is ultimately the purpose of all writing: to invoke, to summon back, to raise from the dead, to hold those we've lost if only with words."—Andre Aciman, author of False Papers

"A brave, beautiful, fascinating book; wise and harrowing, and as lucid a statement of the power and complexity of the past as I've ever read."—Richard F. Snow, editor, American Heritage