Two weeks ago I promised that I’d post weekly and promptly crapped out the following weekend. In my defense I was getting certified in reiki and focusing my energy and intentions that much for two days didn’t leave a ton of emotional space to scrape up a post. I figured my eager readers would forgive me!
Also, it was awesome. I love expanding my healing repertoire.
Also, is September usually this cold? Feels like ghost weather (on top of like apple season and hayrides and looking at Halloween costumes on Amazon, etc). School has started, everything seems okay so far with the hybrid schedule. I made my kid a work station in his room because he thinks he wants one, even though he’s not a kid who hangs in his room. New beginnings all around. I like the progress toward normalcy.
But! More booky less pontification.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club, Craig Davidson
This is a memoir type story of a twelve year old during a memorable summer in a post industrial town who makes new friends and engages on ghosting voyages with his occult obsessed uncle. There are vignettes as well of the author’s experiences as a brain surgeon intertwined with the story of this summer, providing another level of intensity to the narrative, as well as a hidden trauma story I suspected as I read but not from the blurb.
My guilty confession here was this was not a TBR deal. It was on BookRiot book deals, which I should be avoiding, but it demanded I buy it and devour it, which I did. Something about this book needed me to read it. Coming of age, which I love, add in some ghosties, and then there was the added fascination of the brain surgery which was a little cringey for this squeamish reader, but maybe to add appeal to adult readers. I would have loved it either way but the adulthood vignettes did add depth to the story. It was beautifully written, the language sharp, and I went between wanting to consume the story but also absorb the lovely use of language. It’s Halloween-y because there is definitely a supernatural element but it’s a summer read too, as it takes place during a pre screen, ride your bike around town or hang in your basement with your friends, be home by dark summer. I had those summers as a kid, even though video games were becoming a thing. We still got together to play them. But this was really good and somehow I knew it would be. Nostalgic but I also can’t unsee some of the brain surgery imagery. Loved it.
Riddance: Or the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing Mouthed Children, Shelley Jackson
Jane Grandison is an eleven year old mixed race orphan who is accepted into the Sybil Joines school due to her stutter (and honestly, there isn’t really another place for her to go). The idea is that her stutter will be treated and cured, but truly it is a school for communicating with those on the other side of the veil. The Headmistress pioneers this effort and spends her time on either side of the veil as well. Jane becomes her stenographer for her recorded sessions on the other side of the veil. A child disappears from the school, which brings unwelcome outside attention, and then some nefarious events take place. The story is told through explanations of necrophysical philosophy, travels on the other side of the veil, Jane’s story of her experiences at the school. There is some unreliable narration going on as well.
This is gorgeously and poetically written. The language is sharp and beautiful. It’s a darker and less accessible Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and perhaps a little more realistic too, given these children are possibly neuro-atypical in a number of ways that set them apart from society, instead of having special powers. I mean, not that special powers, or anything poorly understood, was really dealt with well in the past, either. This novel doesn’t try to sugarcoat the plight of different and marginalized children back in the day.
The complicated theories are made interesting in how they are written, explaining how children’s stutters leave space for ghost voices to come forth. It does well with complicated theories. However, I do have to mention that it could be difficult to get through in parts. It’s heavy and layered with traumatic stories. My favorite parts were Jane talking about being a student at the school, but it really isn’t centered on being a student at a school for atypical children. It would have helped to know that there is the element of the headmistress speaking from the other side and that is separate from the story of the student who becomes her loyal subject. I am not surprised that the ratings on Goodreads are lukewarm. I think this is a book that really has to be your thing to get through, and it becomes apparent that the narration is unreliable, so a reader looking for a concrete resolution or answer would likely be disappointed.
It is spooky, Gothic and mysterious and perfect for this time of year. It is something I’d have to revisit to feel that I got all of it, or more of it, than at a first pass. It’s an ambitious project that does well with the realities of the past as I see them.
I also may have been a little disappointed last weekend that the one agent who wanted a full ultimately passed on my book. But I gotta keep going. I’m waiting on smaller pieces I submitted and I’m still putting out my intention into the world to get the book forward and to manifest creativity.
I have read A LOT for this blog series so you’ll hear from me next week. I almost have all the Halloween TBRs read. NYPL is an awesome audiobook hookup.