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Review: ‘The Ghost in Love’ by Jonathan Carroll

Review: ‘The Ghost in Love’ by Jonathan Carroll post image

Have you ever read a review of a book that sticks with you so fully that even two years later you can still remember the title of the book and what part of the review made you want to read the book?

That’s what happened with Jonathan Carroll’s book The Ghost in Love, which first got on my radar almost exactly two years ago when a college friend, Ben, who has great tasted in all sorts of books posted a glowingly crazy-sounding review of the book. Every time I’ve got to a used bookstore since then, I’ve gone to the “C” section to see if there are any of Carroll’s books to experiment with.

I found a copy of The Ghost in Love on a trip this summer, and I am so glad that particular review stuck with me because this was a nutty and awesome book.

The Ghost in Love starts with a relatively simple premise:

A man falls in the snow, hits his head on a curb, and dies. But something strange occurs: the man doesn’t die, and the ghost that’s been sent to take his soul to the afterlife is flabbergasted. Going immediately to its boss, the ghost asks, what should I do now? The boss says, we don’t know how this happened but we’re working on it. We want you to stay with this man to help us figure out what’s going on.

The ghost agrees unhappily; it is a ghost, not a nursemaid. But a funny thing happens—the ghost falls madly in love with the man’s girlfriend, and things naturally get complicated.

Honestly, I’d prefer just to send you over to Ben’s review because he sums up the book and my reaction to it more perfectly than I think I will be able to. But I’ll do my best to say something useful in case you decide not to follow my advice and keep reading here.

There are so many pieces of the plot and moments when you can tell Carroll is trying to make A Big Point About Life and Fate and Our Place in the Universe that the story sometimes feels a little out of control. But it’s the good sort of out of control, or at least it was for me. I liked that the book was smart without sacrificing character development or emotional connections and thinky without being hard to read. It just hit all sorts of good notes with me, even if it was more than a little crazy-pants by the end.

If you want another really good review, I’d suggest this one by Fyrefly over at Fyrefly’s Book Blog, which also talks eloquently about the mix of really beautiful Truths with lots of other strange, strange stuff.

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  • Steph October 26, 2011, 10:04 am

    I read this one a few years ago when S&TI! was just finding its feet! It was the first book by Carroll that I had tried and I enjoyed it quite a lot, although to be honest, I don’t really remember much about it now! I think that maybe it wound up being zanier than I expected, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve since read other authors who have a similar style (I think Haruki Murakami is a good example), and enjoyed them as well. It’s always nice when authors try something different with fiction!

    • Kim October 27, 2011, 6:08 am

      Yes, I’m a little fuzzy on all the details too, but I think it’s because I read it pretty quickly too. It’s interesting you compare this one to Murakami, since I’ve been curious about reading him too.

  • Trisha October 26, 2011, 4:23 pm

    This does sound like the out of control I would like. 🙂

    • Kim October 27, 2011, 6:08 am

      The ending is just really goofy and awesome. I loved it.

  • Jenny October 26, 2011, 4:45 pm

    I want to love Jonathan Carroll so much more than I actually do love him. I read two of his books a few years ago, because Neil Gaiman had said he was good, and I just hated them. They made me feel so depressed and miserable, which is not a reaction I usually have to works of fiction! But maybe the time is ripe to give him another try.

    • Kim October 27, 2011, 6:10 am

      Oh, that’s sad! This one didn’t make me depressed and miserable at all. Which books did you read?

  • Ben Wheeler-Floyd October 26, 2011, 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the shout out (again!), Kim. I’ve gotten super giddy each of the times you’ve mentioned me on here.

    • Kim October 27, 2011, 6:11 am

      Of course! Really enjoyed your review of this book when I read it so long ago 🙂

  • Kailana October 26, 2011, 7:15 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed it! I own it, but haven’t read it yet…

    • Kim October 27, 2011, 6:11 am

      I’d give it a try, when you’re in the mood for something weird.

  • Care October 27, 2011, 7:42 am

    Sounds like a good one to suggest to book club. I love zany.

    • Kim October 30, 2011, 12:44 pm

      I think “zany” might be slightly too goofy-feeling for the book, but I can’t quite think of a better word… I do think it could foster some really great book club discussions.

  • Amused October 27, 2011, 11:23 am

    Wow, this book sounds really good and perfect for the season!

    • Kim October 30, 2011, 12:45 pm

      Yeah, it could be. It’s not really a spooky ghost story, but there are some scary-ish parts.

  • Fyrefly October 28, 2011, 7:21 am

    What did you think about the ghost? I found that character really, really annoying, and I’ve always wondered how much that was due to the character itself, and how much was due to the audiobook narrator’s portrayal.

    • Kim October 30, 2011, 12:46 pm

      I didn’t really think she was annoying, but I did think the idea of her being in love was a sort of minimal part of the story.