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Book review: Philip Smith’s ‘Walking Through Walls’ loving rembrance of unusual father

Grade: B

By Philip Smith (Atria, $24)

Nothing changes family dynamics quite like the presence of supernatural powers.

Lew Smith was a successful interior decorator for Miami’s rich and famous throughout the 1960s and ’70s. When he returned home after a full day of putting together stunning interiors, he took off his tie and zeroed in on his real work, that of a psychic healer.

As young son Philip watched, Lew Smith would transform himself in ways the youngster would later describe as similar to sharing the house with Clark Kent and Superman. The psychic serviced clients who ranged from mobsters and Caribbean dictators to a gaggle of assorted celebrities.

In a fascinating, highly readable book, the younger Smith reveals what it was like to grow up in a household where séances, talking spirits and exorcisms were as common as fish at Friday night supper. Even though there were, of course, benefits to having such a gifted father, there were also downsides.

For example, he claims the invisible spirits tended to behave like nagging relatives and escaping his mystical home life was not always an easy thing to do. As people from throughout the country flocked to the Smith home in search of a miracle, the house became much like a cross between Lourdes and the set of “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Philip Smith’s memoir is moving, provocative and unexpectedly witty. It is the insightful story of how a son came to terms with both his father and his unusual home life, a spirited coming-of-age story like no other.

Smith is the former managing editor of GQ magazine and an artist who divides his time between New York and Miami.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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