Peter Straub’s Ghost Story was an intricately weaved story showcasing many characters with many, many secrets. The “creatures” in which the villains are based can be seen as a literal interpretation on pure, absolute evil OR they can be seen as symbolic. Those secrets that we as humans hide deep inside, praying no one will ever find. As we’ve read, places can be haunted, but what about people? Our demons never sleep, right? And even the most innocent souls must have evil inside them…lurking, biding time.
Ghost Story worked most brilliantly as a psychological thriller/suspense. I still wasn’t sure if it was horror or what I anticipate horror to be. Again, I’m not well read of as knowledgable in the genre. Perhaps I’m learning what horror truly is. I know I wasn’t really spooked or holding back any screams while the story unraveled, piece by piece. I found myself intrigued throughout the book, however if it had one specific downfall it was an enormous amount of unnecessary words, descriptions, etc. The tone and setting were established through Straub’s language, an obvious necessity. My issue was the amount of times this technique was used. For me, half the book could have been cut or at the least, edited down. Straub took his characters and unleashed them with hardly any restraint. I found myself fighting the temptation to skim (possibly skip) much more than I did with the previous two novels.
The depth of this story was its strength. Talk about world building! Straub created characters with what felt like ease. He “six degrees to Kevin Bacon-ed” them so skillfully that I almost felt as If I was watching Days of Our Lives. I feared that somewhere I would lose my mind trying to keep track of who everyone was and their relationships to each other. But I didn’t have too much trouble. Also, another interesting (and effective) technique employed by our author was the chronological jumps. We started at the end (Angie and Don), pushed into the past (Chowder Society)…pushed further into the past ( Sears’ Ghost Story)….pushed slightly into the future (John’s party) and back again to the future. Again to the past (Alma Mobley and Berkeley) once Don showed up in Milburn. Then we stayed smooth until the story played out. This could have confused the hell out of readers and believe me, I’m surprised it didn’t screw my timeline up more. Perhaps that’s the sign of a writer who simply has a clear and decisive plot in his mind. As a writer, I know plots this intricate don’t flow as effortlessly as Ghost Story’s without much prep work. It’s truly admirable.
Where I lost my interest or faith in the book was the end. The Epilogue was lackluster. And also lost me for the first time. What Straub chose to do with his ending completely veered from the clean storytelling he had set me up to expect. Even when I had questions and confusion looming overhead, I always had clarity of character. By the end I had lost that clarity. I did not feel the triumphant thrill after Don killed the wasp and I desperately wanted to.
Ghost Story played on our weaknesses and strengths as humans. Do supernatural creatures exist on their own accord, born from forces we could never understand or defeat OR do our imaginations give these creatures life? Do they exist because we let them exist or would they be either way? Are we actually haunted by our choices in life or do we create our own personal hells?
Ghost Story fed my intellectual qualms with human nature and supernatural interferences. It delved deep into my psyche. The notion that we can never outrun our decisions in life, whether good or bad, is a fatal conundrum. While it did not make me scream, it did at times make me shiver.