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26th March
written by Steph
The ghost was in love, but I was more "in like".

The ghost was in love, but I was more "in like".

Twenty pages into reading The Ghost in Love, I realized it was not going to be at all the kind of book I was expecting, but rather than being disappointed by that, I was actually kind of stoked, because even if the book was totally defying my expectations, it was doing it in the best possible way.  I had expected a little bit of the otherworldly – the book does have the word “ghost” in the title after all – but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so fantastical, and also so, well, funny.  For some reason, I thought the book would be more somber and aching in its tone, but the tone was far lighter and wittier than I thought it would be.  Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in which Carroll writes some beautiful descriptions of love and memory and it’s all very lovely, but he’s also got a sense of humor, and I like that too. This is a hard book for me to review, simply because what I really want to say is that I enjoyed it immensely, but I also am not sure I completely “got” all of the things Carroll was trying to say.  The first part of the novel is really engaging and fun to read, but then things get increasingly bizarre, such that at the end the story winds up in a place I never would have expected (and I doubt any of you would either).  I wouldn’t necessarily say the book has a disappointing ending, but I would say that the second half is weaker than the first half, and there’s so much anticipation and suspense built and confusion revolving around what the heck is going on that I think Carroll kind of painted himself into a corner, because with all that build up, it was nearly impossible for the resolution to be anything but something of a let-down.  He built my expectations up really high in the first half of the novel, and while it’s a shame he wasn’t necessarily able to cash in on them at the end, it’s not like I was disappointed.  It’s more that I was still kind of confused as to what had just happened.  I’ve read my fair share of books that had really terrible/disappointing endings (it’s so rare when you find a book whose ending is truly satisfying, or those even more serendipitous occasions when the ending is so good it actually elevates the book to a new level), and this hardly even qualifies as that kind of situation. The other reason I’m reluctant to say much about this book is because for me a huge part of the fun was constantly being thrown for a loop because I had no idea what was going to happen next or where any of it was going.  I hadn’t even read the dustjacket on the book, that’s how in the dark I was!  All I knew going in, and all I’ll say to you, is that the book focuses largely on a man named Ben Gould who was scheduled to die one day, but for some reason, didn’t die.  And ever since then, weird things have been happening.  Also, his ghost was still sent to earth and is supposed to watch Ben and keep track of him until everything gets straightened out.  Of course, those three sentences are hardly adequate for summarizing all the twists and turns that Carroll pushes you through in this book, but if you want to know more, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. I really enjoyed the book, and was strongly reminded of a slightly subdued, slightly more refined Christopher Moore while I read it.  The book has a lot of wacky moments, and has a strong fantasy flavor to it; it’s the kind of book where all you can do is expect the unexpected, magical realism taken to a magical extreme.  That being said, the book isn’t just fluff – it delves into topics of fate/predestination, memory, and love, too.  I turned the pages quickly because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, and got really caught up in the story.  For a 300 page novel, I felt it was a really a light, quick, and fun read.  Fans of Tom Robbins & Christopher Moore will probably like Jonathan Carroll quite a bit.   Personally, I’m happy to have discovered a new author who has an extensive back catalogue that I can work through! Rating: 4 out of 5


  1. 03/26/2009

    I love it when a book surprises me in a good way, and turns out to be different but even better than I expected. This sounds like a good read…putting it on the list!

  2. Fiona

    Jonathan Carroll also keeps one of the great daily blogs on his website, in case you haven’t discovered it yet. Poignant, insightful and often funny it is as wonderful as his books and it is almost daily!

  3. 03/26/2009

    Priscilla, I completely agree. In recent memory, my preconceptions of what a book was supposed to be have, I think, mitigated my ability to fully enjoy the book. But in this one, Carroll bucked my expectations sufficiently early that I was able to just sit back and enjoy the ride. This one was quirky, but in a way I was completely able to embrace!
    Fiona, thanks for the link! I did a bit of research on Carroll after I finished this book, but obviously not enough to realize he had his own blog!

  4. […] Ghost in Love I have wanted to read ever since Steph reviewed it, about a year and a half ago. That’s how long it’s been on my […]

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