Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Fiction, Ghost Story
Rating: Liked it a Lot (4 out of 5)
After the death of their estranged father, Minna and Trenton Walker return to their childhood home to bury their father and close up the house. With them, Minna’s six year old daughter Amy and their mother, Carolina. Already there are Alice and Sandra, ghosts that live in the bones of the house, it’s pipes and walls, radiators and floors and who know all the Walker’s secrets, secrets that will eventually need to be revealed.
To say the Walkers are damaged is an understatement. Each is carrying, it seems, the weight of the world on their shoulders, a lifetime of resentments and misunderstandings – against each other and the outside world. For the most part, it isn’t anything a bit of honesty wouldn’t cure but none of them seem capable of being honest. Instead, they hide behind drink, and pills, and sex and live around instead of with each other.
Alice and Sandra, the ghosts, aren’t much better. Forced to live together because they both died in the house, there isn’t much they can do to escape each other so they snip and snarl and do their best to wind each other up, picking at the scabs of each other’s pasts, pasts that – it appears – are just as unhappy as the Walkers present. Things begin to change for them with the arrival of the family. Even ghosts, it seems, must face their past.
This is the thing I liked best about this book, that this wasn’t a ghost story about a haunting or about people trying to expel ghosts. There weren’t any scary bumps in the night. This was really a story about loss and regret told from a different angle. It really appealed to me and I liked Lauren Oliver’s writing style. It was easy to read but with a nice turn of phrase. This included how she described Alice and Sandra as part of the house so how they felt things like running water and furniture being moved as raking against their skin and how they couldn’t leave a room during the Walkers more unpleasant moments or look away because they were part of the fabric of the building.
Alice and Sandra’s stories are told room by room as the family move around the house, as are Minna, Trenton and Caroline’s (though hers not so much – this we see mainly through other people’s eyes). The ghosts tell their own story, everyone else’s is the third person. This took a little while to get used to because there were quite a few characters but once I got into the rhythm of the book, I had no problem following along, or bonding with the characters. Despite all of them having some not so nice characteristics, I actually felt for all of them (liked might have been going a little too far) and wanted things to work out for them.
I’m not sure if these things are common to all Lauren Oliver’s books because this is the first I’ve read but I hope they are because I think I’ve just discovered an author I want to read more of. Highly recommended.