Halloween Read: “The Ghost Notebooks” by Ben Dolnick

theghostnotebook

Is it ghosts?  Or is it madness?  Or maybe a little of both?

The Ghost Notebooks follows Nick and Hannah, a newly engaged couple at a crisis point in their lives and their relationship.  Their careers are stagnating, and so is their bond.  In hopes that a big change might help them out of their rut, they take jobs as caretakers for a house museum in upstate New York.

From the first, there’s something eerie and secretive about both the town and the house.  The museum was the family home of a 19th century writer and philosopher who, it’s rumored, dabbled in spiritualism.  As the days wear on in this remote and creepy new place, Hannah starts to unravel.  She stops sleeping, hears voices at night, and becomes obsessed with researching the house and the writer.  Nick can only stand by as something tragic happens.

While there’s some occult and spiritualist elements here, this is less a story about a haunting than it is about minds in crisis.  Is Nick a reliable narrator?  Is something nefarious going on?  Or is everything seemingly supernatural simply the result of grief and trauma?

The narrative voice is often wry and funny, and there are a lot of humorous moments balanced against the heavy ones.  If you enjoy just a maybe-sprinkling of ghosts around Halloween, or you’re fascinated by how human minds might create ghouls and goblins, give this one a look!

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