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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
As Listening to Ghosts by Bob Stockton quickly reminds the reader, a good memoir is as much about the quality of voice as it is about the story. Listening to Mr. Stockton talk about his early family years is so akin to sitting down with some familiar and colorful uncle or grandfather that one is tempted to begin asking questions. That is to say, his voice is so authentic as to make you forget that you are reading rather than listening, and that you are not a member of his family, which is something you may be quite inclined to overlook. He also reminds us that most, if not all, families are by nature dysfunctional, and the result is often a rather dysfunctional child who grows up to be a rather dysfunctional adult. But this is not to criticize the author. Quite the contrary.
In his remarkably hypnotic book, Listening to Ghosts, Bob Stockton describes for the often bemused reader – who feels he might be watching a film compilation about a series of massive train wrecks – the narrative equivalent of a mundane life becoming a fascinating study in what it actually means to engage in one’s own existence fully and to live acutely aware of one’s less-than-stellar qualities and skills. The lessons learned are much the same for all, and this particular life – from a largely misspent youth in the 1950s, to a largely misspent naval career in the 1960s and '70s, and finally to a little discussed but successful private life following his service - is so well told by the author that one feels inclined to thank him for having taken on such a challenge, though with a bit of relief at 'there, but for the grace of God, go I.' For Mr. Stockton learns his lessons hard, insistent that the world show him repeatedly just what the results of poor decision-making might entail, but he is a damned good sport and honest when talking about it all.