The Ghost Notebooks
Belletrist Book of the Month
"[An] elegant, eerie new novel . . . Powerful." —The Washington Post
A supernatural story of love, ghosts, and madness as a young couple, newly engaged, become caretakers of a historic museum.
When Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe decide to move from New York City to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia, they aren't exactly running away, but they need a change. Their careers have flatlined, the city is exhausting, and they've reached a relationship stalemate. Hannah takes a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, a museum dedicated to an obscure nineteenth-century philosopher, and she and Nick swiftly move into their new home. The town’s remoteness, the speed with which Hannah is offered the job, and the lack of museum visitors barely a blip in their consideration.
At first, life in this old, creaky house feels cozy—they speak in Masterpiece Theater accents and take bottles of wine to the swimming hole. But as summer turns to fall, Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping and she hears whispers in the night. One morning, Nick wakes up to find Hannah gone. In his frantic search for her, Nick will discover the hidden legacy of Wright House: a man driven wild with grief, and a spirit aching for home.
Dolnick's immersive novel, about how little people know about their loved ones, adds a supernatural element to that topic. Newly engaged, Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe leave Queens for the remote upstate village of Hibernia. Hannah embraces her role as the live-in director of the Edmund Wright Historic House, which celebrates an obscure 19th-century philosopher, and Nick refocuses on his music career. Then they learn that the house has been the site of several mysteries since the gruesome death of Wright's young son deepened Wright's obsession with the unseen. As Hannah withdraws, battles insomnia, and begins to hear voices at night, Nick struggles to support her. Then he awakens to find her gone. When the search for her fails to yield clear answers, his effort to discover what haunted her leads through local stories and long-hidden documents that only entangle him in Hannah's fears, Wright's anguish, and forces neither could control. Nick's convincing narration, a chronicle of blind spots and good intentions, is chief among the devices Dolnick (At the Bottom of Everything) deploys to give familiar motifs a contemporary sensibility in this ghost tale, love story, mystery, and bildungsroman.
The Ghost Notebooks is a beautifully written and highly imaginative story. I really did not expect certain twists and turns that took place. I wish I could sit down with the author and, over a cup of coffee, chat with him about certain points in the book. For instance, (SPOILER ALERT), why would spirits try to bedevil people who are living, hence causing them to take their own lives? Perhaps I misunderstood, but couldn’t really make the connection. I completely bought into the supernatural aspect of the story, but at the end it seemed that perhaps Nick would just end up back in the institution for good. Basically what I’m saying is that this book about haunting is haunting me and I need some answers! Obviously a great read that leaves a lingering impression.