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The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett
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's review
Oct 06, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008reads, speculative-fiction, for-reviews, friendship
Read in October, 2008

The Ghost's Child: A poorly-written review with digressions!

Matilda is already an old woman when she comes home to find a young boy relaxing on her couch, clearly waiting for her. Over the course of the afternoon, she tells him the story of how she came to be who she is--her way of refuting the boy’s disappointed accusation that she has gotten old. How she arrived at this place in her life--elderly, serene, at peace--was a long process of travel and adventure, of falling in love and learning to let go of it. Primarily this is a love story, but also a fairy tale, with many fantastical elements entering the story mid-way through. As out-of-place as talking sea creatures and a friendship with the West Wind could be, these elements are well-integrated into the story; it requires no more suspension of disbelief than any fairy tale.

The Ghost’s Child, for all its romance and fairy-tale conventions, is still a bit of a downer, though a more peaceful conclusion than Surrender or What the Birds See. (Not quite happy, but contented. What the Japanese call "mono no aware," the bittersweet sadness of things.) The book has Hartnett’s trademark dreaminess to it; reading her books is like reading poetry with a gauzy border around edge of vision; individually her words are just words, but together they are a soft caress of the emotional center.

As wonderful as her body of work is, though, Hartnett is a victim of marketing in the US. Her books are all considered "young adult," which means they land in Teen collections more often than not, even going so far as to be a Printz Honor book in the case of Surrender. But a "young adult" is not the same as a teen, and her books will generally speak more to 20-somethings than teens. In this, The Ghost’s Child is no exception--this is a romantic, contemplative story that can only be truly appreciated with a little more life experience, after acquiring some measure of understanding about the mysteries of the human heart’s desire for some unnameable circumstance. While I am adding this to my teen collection (based on the Printz buzz already surrounding it) my instinct would be to add it, along with her other books, to the adult collection, where it will find a more receptive audience. Recommended for any who have loved and lost.
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