BookBin2012: Ghost: A Novel

I actually have a few recently finished books waiting in the wings for their big blog review debut. I’m hoping that now that my schedule is slowly clearing itself, I’ll have a little more time to work on them.

Hopefully not too much time though. Ahem.

Now, on to the first review. I read Alan Lightman’s novel Einstein’s Dreams last year and loved it so much that I knew I wanted to read more by this author. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when I discovered two more of his books at my local library.

The first of these two books that I read was Lightman’s 2007 offering, Ghost: A Novel. The story follows protagonist David Kurtzweil, a former bank employee who, after being laid off, finds new employment at a funeral home. As one can easily deduce from the title, David has an inexplicable encounter of a possibly paranormal variety while at his new place of employment.

Actually, one of the things that I loved most about this book was that Lightman doesn’t at first reveal what David saw. He keeps David’s experience a mystery, alluding to it, circumnavigating it, flirting with it…but never quite meeting it face-to-face. It takes a delicate touch to be able to write a novel called Ghost without actually discussing…the ghost.

Unfortunately, Lightman does finally reveal what David witnessed, and I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown to me. I think it’s because I was hoping that Lightman would simply not reveal what David saw. I think the further along the story progressed and the longer Lightman remained vague, the more I was convinced that the novel could only possibly work if the reveal never occurred. Perhaps that was my own failing as a reader. I don’t know.

I do know that Lightman once again enraptured me with his clean, elegant prose. His style is stark and simple, extremely reminiscent of Hemingway in many ways.

Unlike Einstein’s Dreams, this novel is a little less stream-of-consciousness, far more regimented, and a lot longer. Perhaps a bit too long. I found myself growing weary of some of the plot twists toward the end, but, again, this might be a reflection of my response to the reveal that I had hoped would never arrive.

Final Verdict: I don’t know whether or not I would ever want to re-read this book. While I very much enjoyed the experience on a holistic level, the devil is, indeed, in the details…and the few negatives that I have detailed in this review are enough to convince me not to purchase a copy, but to keep this in mind for a future library revisit.

I still think that Lightman is very much worth reading. I still treasure the experience of reading Einstein’s Dreams, and I promise that the next Lightman book that I review here will be a much more ebullient posting than this one.