I recently finished reading The Girl Who Would Speak For the Dead by Paul Elwork – available this month from Amy Einhorn Books.
It’s a gritty, dark, yet wholesomely innocent novel about two kids who discover one of them has a special talent – she can a make a special cracking noise with her ankle that sounds as if it is bursting out of the air without cause.
Her excitable twin brother instantly seizes on a way to capitalize on this talent and together they begin a show of speaking with the dead.
It begins innocently, as children’s games do, with them performing for a group of friends. Soon though adults, reeling from WWI, hear of this unusual talent and the twins are drawn into contacting departed loved ones.
The innocent game begins to spin out of control as they dabble in the world of adult grief, need, longing and secrets best left buried.
By then end of the book I was reliving my own days as a child ghost-whisperer up in the mine-pocked mountains outside of Boulder. I loved having my friends from town come up so I could dazzle them with my ghost stories of lost miners and families swept away in the 100 year flood, not to mention pets and children who fell into the open mines never to be seen again.
I got lucky and none of the adults around me put any credence in my tall tales. But I spooked many a friend who would never again venture out in the mountains alone at night.
For all of us in the Ouija board/Poltergeist generation, The Girl Who Would Speak For the Dead is a must read. As kids we all wanted to believe in something more than ourselves. We all wanted to be the one who caught the ghost and proved they were real.
After reading this powerful debut novel, and seeing the consequences of true belief play out, I realized that perhaps it is better for all if the ghosts are left to their shadows and night whispers. The living, by and large, aren’t ready to find the forgiveness they claim to seek, or hear the truths their hearts already know.