Ghosts

Posted on March 30, 2011
Filed under Book reviews | 8 Comments | Email This Post

A college campus is its own village, full of folklore and traditions and initiation rituals. Like a village, it has its haunted places, its ghost stories.” – Michigan author Laura Kasischke

It’s nowhere near Halloween, but here I am, waxing poetic about the supernatural. I just finished reading a new literary thriller, The Raising, and can’t stop thinking about “ghosts” and how we’re haunted by people and places from our past.

If Daphne du Maurier were alive today, this is the sort of novel she’d write. Part gothic suspense, part ghost story, it’s deliciously creepy and atmospheric. Set on the campus of a prestigious Michigan university, The Raising circles around a car accident that killed Nicole Werner, a straight-A sorority sister. Driving on the night of the accident, her boyfriend miraculously (or mysteriously) survived the crash. A year later, it’s rumored that Nicole has been spotted on campus. From then on, the goosebumps don’t let up.

Mira Polson, the cultural anthropology professor who teaches a seminar on the folklore of death rituals at the university, is among the novel’s most intriguing characters, giving the plot its much-needed weight and focus. Mira delivers some compelling — and well-researched — theories on our collective fear of dying and the dead. In contrast to Mira’s macabre obsession with her topic are the college students whose cavalier sexuality and cruel beauty drive the story to its end. (Most college students believe they’re immortal, don’t they?)  One caveat: If you’re a female student considering Greek life, you’ll think twice before stepping inside a sorority house after reading this one.

Award-winning author Laura Kasischke, who teaches at the University of Michigan in the MFA program, deftly moves back and forth between past and present, interweaving the back stories of her characters without muddling her plot or confusing her readers. She’s also careful enough to avoid the typical Stephen King horror cliches — though I see terrific possibilities for one heck of a spooky screenplay.

I agree with some of the reviewers who were a bit disappointed in the novel’s conclusion. Without revealing too much here, I’d hoped for a bit more closure on the “whereabouts” of certain characters, not to mention retribution for others. That said, life itself doesn’t always wrap up the way we’d like it to — and the ending of this novel didn’t spoil the experience of reading it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a book and couldn’t it put down, so I’m especially grateful to the indie bookstore in St. Joseph, Michigan, where I found this one on a “staff recommends” shelf. My only wish is that it had been released a little closer to Halloween. — Cindy La Ferle

Comments

8 Responses to “Ghosts”

  1. Joanne on March 30th, 2011 12:12 pm

    Well Cindy, you had me hooked on this one until you mentioned the conclusion. I’ve seen this more and more lately, and don’t care for it. After I’ve invested my time into a story, I want SOME sort of closure, even on an abstract level and don’t like to be left frustrated with the author not doing this. So for that reason, I wouldn’t consider reading this story.

  2. Cafe Pasadena on March 30th, 2011 12:47 pm

    I’m unclear exactly what is meant by the highlighted quote of the author. Perhaps it could have been rewritten in a way my brain could better grasp! ;)

  3. Cindy La Ferle on March 30th, 2011 3:51 pm

    Joanne, I didn’t mean to imply that there is no closure at all … Just not what most of us would prefer. The way I see it, life doesn’t always turn out as neatly or as satisfying as we’d like, so I don’t mind when novelists remind me of that. Anyhoo … the conclusion didn’t spoil the story for me — and I still recommend it. The author is an excellent story teller.

  4. Cindy La Ferle on March 30th, 2011 3:58 pm

    @ Cafe Pasedena: I can understand your confusion, so I switched to a more accessible quote ;-)

  5. Marlynn on March 30th, 2011 6:24 pm

    Ohhhh, Thank you Cindy, sounds like one great book. Anymore I listen to audio books driving to and from work and usually read “real” books when I travel. However, this one sounds really good and I will go on a search for it. The cover reminded me of those books Bas Bleu carries. I have been listening to a book and knew the authors but wasn’t certain I would get into the storyline. The book is called Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln. Excellent and you can find it on Amazon. You might like it.

  6. Angie Muresan on March 30th, 2011 11:01 pm

    Cindy, it sounds like a book I’d love to read. You’ve done a great review.

  7. cindy on March 31st, 2011 10:52 am

    I put this on my Kindle wish list. It sounds wonderful and I always like to support Michigan authors;-)

  8. Sharon on March 31st, 2011 8:33 pm

    It sounds like a good read if I was into that kind of story. Novels about the supernatural are not my cup of tea.

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