Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: Nothing But Ghosts, by Beth Kephart

“Maybe love, I think, is the biggest thing there is. Maybe love also contains the most amount of ruin …. Maybe loving once means some part of you is stuck loving forever – loving and chasing and living with whatever you’re lucky enough to remember.” ~ from Nothing But Ghosts

Katie D’Amore knows a little something about love, about ruin, and about that part of each one of our souls that is stuck loving forever and struggling to discover how to live with what we’re lucky to remember.

Nothing But Ghosts is considered a young-adult novel, which is somewhat unfortunate because some readers might pass it by on that alone. They would be doing themselves a disservice, however, because Nothing But Ghosts is really a story for anyone who has ever loved anyone – which, let’s face it, is most of us.

It’s the story of Katie, whose 16-year old heart is cracked down the middle as a result of the loss of her mother just a few months earlier. It’s the story of her equally brokenhearted father, who Katie is close with and who, by preparing elaborate dinners and setting the table for three, instead of two, is mourning the loss of the love of his life.

It’s the story of Katie’s summer job at the nearby estate of Miss Martine, a recluse for more than 50 years, and what she finds – literally and figuratively – while digging through the ruins of the estate to build a gazebo, the ultimate symbol of romance and love.

It's the story of Katie's dad's job as a restorer of paintings, discoverer of the secrets just buried just under the surface waiting patiently for years, decades to be found.

The crack in Katie’s heart will heal somewhat, but those of us who have experienced the loss of someone so beloved and precious know that there will always be a fine line there. Especially when the loss is that of a parent, in the years when you’re just beginning to know them – and they you.

Nothing But Ghosts is everything – a mystery from time gone by, a romance in bloom, a travelogue, a poem within a novel. Only a writer as talented and gifted with words as Beth Kephart can manage to successfully weave all these elements together in a way that results in a beautiful story for the ages and for all ages.

Yes, Katie knows about love, about ruin, about being stuck loving forever and being lucky to remember.

And thankfully, so does Beth Kephart.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I read this in one sitting and have already recommended it as a birthday present for a 16 year old avid reader. And in the interest of full disclosure that some bloggers are doing, I bought this book myself, from It was purchased as part of the book drive hosted by My Friend Amy, but I would have bought this regardless, being that I adore Beth and her writing.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Thanks for your wonderful review. I've heard so much about Kephart's books and now can't wait to read them!

Beth Kephart said...

Hey. Maybe it's the day, the weather, my exhaustion? But I just read this review and cried. Thank you so much, Melissa. So very much.



Becca said...

I loved this one too...and bought two copies for gifts because I didn't dare loan mine to anyone for fear of not getting it back.

bermudaonion said...

Your review is almost as stunning as the book itself.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

rhapsody - you definitely should! have a review of House of Dance on here, too.

Beth - oh my, now you have me crying ... perhaps we are having similar days ...

Becca - I'm with you on that. I've lent out two books that have not been returned that I loved. I've gotten pretty stingy about lending my books out since.

Kathy - you are, as always, so very kind. I wrote the majority of that review sitting in the beach house, so I'll attribute its effects to the sand and salt air.

Tessa said...

You said it all, Melissa, and you said it so very beautifully. I read Nothing But Ghosts in one sitting as well...and I was swept away - utterly - by the luminous quality of Beth's prose. She is a magician, a weaver of words, of images, of moments of sublime recognition. She leaves me awe-struck. This book is indeed for everyone, regardless of age, who loves superbly written literary fiction. I'm years away from young adulthood and I was entranced.

Bermudaonion is absolutely right...your review is brilliant. Thank you.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Wow, Tessa ... thank you. It helps when writing a good review to have great material to write about. :) Welcome to the blog, by the way!

Julie J. said...

Please come and claim your reward over at My Own Little Corner of the World!