From the bestselling author of She's Not There comes
another buoyant, unforgettable memoirI'm Looking Through You is about
growing up in a haunted house...and making peace with the ghosts that dwell in
For Jennifer Boylan, creaking stairs, fleeting images in the mirror, and the
remote whisper of human voices were everyday events in the Pennsylvania house in
which she grew up in the 1970s. But these weren't the only specters beneath the
roof of the mansion known as the "Coffin House." Jenny herselfborn Jameslived
in a haunted body, and both her mysterious, diffident father and her wild,
unpredictable sister would soon become ghosts to Jenny as well.
I'm Looking Through You is an engagingly candid investigation of what it
means to be "haunted." Looking back on the spirits who invaded her family home,
Boylan launches a full investigation with the help of a group of earnest, if
questionable, ghostbusters. Boylan also examines the ways we find connections
between the people we once were and the people we become. With wit and
eloquence, Boylan shows us how love, forgiveness, and humor help us find
peacewith our ghosts, with our loved ones, and with the uncanny boundaries,
real and imagined, between men and women.
Washington Post - Patrick Anderson
The best part of the book, by far, comes near the end when Boylan tones down the cute stuff and talks about her later life. Jimmy, hoping that love could "save" him, married at 30 and fathered two children but still wanted desperately to be a woman. Finally, after surgery, Jimmy became Jenny, and we learn how Jenny's wife and family dealt with this new reality. It's an interesting and touching story, but it has already been told in more detail in Boylan's earlier memoir.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
[S]he strains for parallels between her wraithlike pre-op self and the apparitions who purportedly haunted her childhood home near Philadelphia, the aptly named Coffin House. But the blurry specters sending out electric currents and mysteriously closing doors never come to life on the page. C+
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Carole Goldberg
Boylan freely acknowledges giving characters pseudonyms and other identity-hiding characteristics, stretching or collapsing the book's time frame, reconstructing dialogue and even inventing some material to plug gaps and dramatize events she (or earlier, he) did not experience, all in the name of telling a richer story.
Those considerable caveats aside, Boylan has here produced another highly readable, mind-stretching tale, full of visitations that might be ghostly or, not-so-simply, the product of an deeply sensitive mind, along with raucous wit and poignant recollections.
Seattle Times - Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett
Boylan uses her childhood house and its eccentric character as a device to explore her life, noting: "If, as Aristotle said, character is fate, then so, I would argue, is architecture. Surely whoever it is we become is the result, in part, of the houses in which we live."
Boylan’s vivid atmosphere and characterizations and use of dramatic irony and comic relief give this memoir a bright, shimmering force.
A lovely, heartening piece of work.
Starred Review. In spite of the singularity of Boylan's circumstance, the coming-of-age story has far-reaching resonance: estrangement in one's own home, alienation in one's own skin and the curious ways that men and women come to know themselves and one another.
Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Empire Falls
Jenny Boylan’s I’m Looking Through You ranks right up there with Mary
Karr’s The Liar’s Club and Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life as one
of the finest literary memoirs of the last several decades. Like these, it’s a
haunting revelation of the human heart, its terrible longings, its fears and
joys, the secret recesses where we most truly dwell. How alike we all are, down
A recent survey, cited by Boylan, reveals that 48% of people say they believe in ghosts, with women more
likely to say so (56%) than men (38%); overall, more than 1 in 5
Americans say they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost. Having said that, other
polls have put the general figures between 37%-65%, which does make one
think about statistics as well as ghosts!
In 1991, in the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley, the Supreme Court
of New York ruled that a seller must disclose that a house has a reputation
for being haunted because such a reputation impairs the value of the house.
The Ackleys, and much of the community in Nyack, NY, believed the house to
be haunted, and had reported as much to papers and walking tours of the area
over the years they lived there. The buyer, Jeffrey Stambovsky, was from New
York City, and was not informed of the folklore, and filed for rescission of
the contract and damages soon after buying the house.
This witty and lovingly told memoir takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period--people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.
An incandescent memoir of an ordinary girl growing up at the turn of the 1970s and the truly extraordinary circumstances of a childhood lost. Wrenching and unforgettable, Blackbird will carry your heart away.
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