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The 'Geisters

The 'Geisters - David Nickle "Was it terror, or was it love? It would be a long time before Ann LeSage could decide. For most of her life, the two feelings were so similar as to be indistinguishable.

"It was easy to mix them up."

These are the first two paragraphs of this novel. These are also two paragraphs that are often quoted in reviews of this book. These two paragraphs sum up all that is yet to come in this strange, eerie novel of ghosts and growing up.

The novel follows Ann, a woman who is entering an odd marriage of convenience, who also harbors a secret. She has a poltergeist, which she calls the Insect, that manifests itself when she gets under a great amount of stress. The story follows this predicament not just up to and through her marriage, but also back to when she was younger and it affected her life in horrible, terrible ways. As an adult, she seems to find controlling the Insect much harder, and what starts out as a simple revealing of her history turns into something much darker and much more sinister than she ever could have expected.

The start of the novel is a bit slow-going, but once the reader manages to sort out what’s happening with Ann and the rest of the cast of characters, it begins to speed along. Parts of the narrative are clunky, but not because the author doesn't know what he's doing; there's a passage where Ann is on a flight with major turbulence where I dare anyone to willfully stop and put the book down. You won't be able to do it. As the novel reaches its conclusion, though, things start to get muddy again, to the point where I had trouble simply following what was happening. I had the gist of where events were going, but sometimes I had trouble just tracking the details. I'm not sure why it broke down near the end, especially when Nickle did such a good job following the action during the flight.

The problem might be in my expectations. I had heard that this was an effectively creepy ghost story, and while it is, I was expecting it to be more like a genre ghost story, and not a literary ghost story. There's certainly a plot to follow here, but it takes a second place to the theme of the novel. I’m an adamant advocate for function over form, so when a story starts to suffer because it's trying to be more than just the story, I tend to lose focus. Books can be both — Perfect Circle and Tender Morsels were two books that managed to maintain the form and function at the same time — but here I just seemed to get lost in the lofty premise of the conclusion.

The 'Geisters does succeed in being another literary ghost story where the ghosts aren't what makes the story so horrible, and where the theme is much deeper than your average horror story, but I wish that the storytelling itself had been more up to what I was expecting. As it is, I admire it for its theme and for being genuinely creepy, but it's hard to appreciate it for the story.