This is the memoir of a person who can see and speak to the dead – a psychic, medium, or clairvoyant (choose whatever word you prefer).
Saxman begins with her earliest memories. She describes her difficult, guilt-laden mother and dawning awareness that she wasn't the daughter of her mother's husband. Her father was a man named Steve with whom her mother had a life-long extra-marital affair. Saxman describes the confusing conflicts of a small child learning not to talk about the non-corporeal things she was seeing and sensing in the world around her.
The story moves to difficult childhood and teen years. She was a misfit at the Catholic girls schools she attended, where the nuns were stereotypical Sister Mary Elephant-types that demanded quiet, obedience, and no unanswerable questions. Life became marginally better after she graduated in the 1970s. Her mother helped her sister through college but never offered that option to Suzan. Without many avenues for employment, she began working as an assistant in a toy store. She joined a group led by a local Episcopalian minister and started learning to understand her abilities in a non-hostile environment. The group included a young man named David who became her protector and husband. David's interest in the Society for Creative Anachronisms offered opportunities to attend medieval fairs. At one such event, the tarot reader was a no-show and Suzan stepped in to fill the gap.
She quickly became aware that she was able to give very accurate readings. Within a few years she became associated with a metaphysical shop owner who introduced her to bigger psychic fair venues in the New York-New Jersey area in the early 1980s. Excessive client readings led to burn-out and disenchantment with the store owner using her abilities for his own benefit. Suzan was able to travel to England a few times and found that people were more accepting of her abilities over there. The New Age movement of the 1980s was quickly gaining momentum in the United States. This made it somewhat easier to live on the edges of mainstream society and earn a living from her skills.
Saxman offers examples of client readings interspersed with the chapters about her life. The memoir is not an unabridged biography that shares every incident of her life. She restricts the book's content to significant life events, turning points, and the various relationships and incidents that led her toward her current domicile in Woodstock, New York where she owns a shop called the White Gryphon. She does not advertise her services but word-of-mouth keeps people coming back for more.
A person looking for privacy and anonymity doesn't generally publish a memoir with her real name and location. This book could be a true-life story or a publicity stunt (or both), but much of the story-telling rings true. Her early-life narratives are consistent with the family, social, and educational difficulties shared by people who possess special “non-linear” skills from childhood. The author doesn't admit to giving clients erroneous advice, but she does cop to another consistent trait of highly sensitive mediums – the tendency toward burn-out from too many readings and odd health problems. Saxman followed her bliss in extra-marital relationships. She's honest about it although perhaps less than candid about her motivations. Her partner David has been patient enough to wait for her to get over these romantic flights, and is apparently still in the picture.
While Suzan Saxman isn't a nationally-known psychic like the late Sylvia Browne or John Edwards, this memoir offers a fascinating lens into the life of a person doing similar work on a smaller scale. It is up to the reader to choose how much of the story to believe. By writing a book in the memoir/auto-biography category, the authors skate around the sticky fiction-or-non-fiction classification issue. It's up to the reader to make or reserve judgment about the veracity of the content.
That said, this book is fun to read. Saxman and her co-author have crafted a book that reads smoothly from start to finish. Saxman's voice is clear from the beginning and is consistent throughout the book. The story is told as a first-person narrative, and Saxman is neither preposterously over-the-top with self-congratulatory BS or overloaded with mendacious false modesty.
If a psychic's memoir is of interest, give this book a try. It's well-written and easy to read, and the narrative flows in an engaging way that keeps the pages turning.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Suzan Saxman with Perdita Finn
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
344 pg, $25.99 hb