Depalma, Scott. “Grandson of a Ghost: A Suicide’s Secret Aftermath”, Gaga Press, 2016.
The Effect of Suicide
Scott Depalma’s “Grandson of a Ghost” looks at how a family’s unspoken and long-lasting grief effected a boy born 25 years after the suicide of his grandfather. As Scott grows up but he does not see how abuse from his mother influenced his perception of the world, and even gave a push to his self-destructive behavior as an adult. After a catastrophic childhood, Scott moved from northern New England where he had had to deal with demons to New York. That was in 1985 and the AIDS crisis and the new wave scene of the East Village were in full swing. He comes out as gay and began a career in the magazine business.
However he still had to deal with depression and feelings of self-doubt so he decided to begin psychotherapy sessions in an attempt to save himself. Through the work with his therapist, Scott began recognizing and confronting his issues of low self-esteem, anger, defensiveness and isolation. He was soon able to accept the love shown by others rather than pushing it away as he was used to doing. He began to understand that love matters and means something. We are lucky that Scott has chosen to shares his journey with us.
This is Depalma’s debut novel an it is based on true events and we learn that his family is still devastated by the suicide of his grandfather when Scott was just five-years-old. His mother doled out relentless physical punishments and this abuse along with being bullied at school weighed heavily on him. In high school hand when he befriended his new neighbor, Tom, he understands his sexuality. However, it was not until he moved to New York to enroll in a summer publishing program that he felt he had any hope, best remedy. But it did not take long before the decadent nightclub scene and a shared apartment worked on dragging him down once again. His coming out to his parents and confiding in a psychotherapist were the first steps towards independence and the peace that he so badly wanted. Depalma is quite good at details and they make up for the lack of narrative tension. His prose is excellent throughout and while this is not a pretty story, it is inspiring. In the beginning this is quite a painful read
The book slowly and at times it is a painful read, but it later becomes quite uplifting and aside from the grandfather’s suicide, many of us have had to deal with similar issues as Scott did. I admire the author’s courage and honesty. We get a very real look at the consequences of a suicide, the ups and downs of life in New York and his coming to terms with his sexuality.