Rob's Reviews > Water Ghosts

Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan
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's review
May 31, 2009

really liked it
Read 2 times

I feel bad because I know Shawna and my 4 star review seems to have brought her average down. So let me clarify what I mean by 4 stars.

I think this is an excellent book. It does a fantastic job of touching on interpersonal relationships within a specific historical context and invoking emotional responses to spiritual/fantasy possibilities. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone. It is not my type of writing, along the lines that Toni Morrison is not my type of writer. Which is to say, anything this good goes beyond type.

Shawna Yang Ryan evokes complex emotional responses with simple words, simple interactions; her characters intrigue, seem complete, and in what is left out they must be followed. And when they are followed, as they must be, what comes is what Borges stated was necessary for a story's ending: it is inevitable yet surprising.

This is a beautiful book, driven by characters, plot and setting.

So, and this is by no means derogatory, just what it would take for a book to go from 4 stars to 5, a list of 5 star books:

Crime and Punishment
The Trial
Grapes of Wrath

You know, that sort of thing. Not an easy list to make, and it probably takes more than one reading to stay there.

One of the things Water Ghosts has going for it is I look forward to rereading it. And like fellow Berkeley-ite Ken Kesey, I'm hoping Shawna will dramatically improve from her excellent first novel (and yeah, Sometimes A Great Notion would be on the five star list, whereas One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest would not.)
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