Book review: A haunting memoir |

Book review: A haunting memoir

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In this day and age when the general public seems to believe that memoir writing involves nothing but typing out a life story, Philip Smith’s memoir rises as a shining example of what makes a quality memoir: honesty, tension, insight, humor and well-written sentences.

Though Smith has a fascinating story to tell – one that revolves around his father’s transformation from a politically correct interior decorator to a New Age spiritual seeker before “New Age” was in – it’s Smith’s talent as a writer that makes “Walking Through Walls” such a pleasure to read. Smith’s skills don’t come without experience: He is the former managing editor of GQ.

During Smith’s teenage years in the 1960s, rather than steering his son toward a viable career or otherwise attending to common matters of development, Smith’s father holds seances, performs exorcisms and even heals people. It seems his father truly is guided by spirit (and more than one, at that), as he psychically knows everything his son does. In fact, through spirit guides, his father received more than 5,000 messages, which he preserved through writing.

But how his father’s spiritual growth affected Smith’s life is the meat of the story. In an attempt to escape the unseen world, Smith turns to the more physical world of sex and surfing. He also throws some Scientology into the mix, but after all, what is the boy of a gifted healer to do?

Much like the absurdity of the situation to begin with, Smith fills his vivid tales with humor, but he doesn’t forget about one of the most important qualities of a well-presented memoir: compassion for everyone involved.

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