by Cat Winters
Publisher: William Morrow
Page Count: 343
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Format: Trade Paperback
How got: personal library; pre-ordered from Amazon
First attention getter: subject matter and author (ghosts and historical fiction? Yes, please!)
Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.
But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.
Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.
Star Rating - 5
I was at first a bit disappointed in the book, the balance of supernatural elements and historical fiction story telling seemed off balance to me. Yet, once things really got rolling, my eyes were opened to how the author was incorporating those creepy elements. Now I’m in awe.
The supernatural in this work is very subtle, almost ethereal and mystical. With only occasional mentions as the book opens, understated clues and foreshadowing opens a window into an amazing world of ghosts and the supernatural that leaves the reader breathless. I loved how the supernatural ties into the historical side as well. Acting as a reflection for how people are dealing with all the trauma of the era (wartime, disease, sudden death), the reader finds themselves wanting to learn more and more.
The historical side of this is as amazingly done as the ghosts. Portraying an American society on the brink, filled with despair, suffering, and violence, the author makes it come to life in both her characters and her setting. Seeing the lengths that tragedy will make a person go in both violence and benevolence are both explored to great effect. All the darkness and pain being surrounded by death and illness would cause make an appearance with such immediacy that I got a visceral reaction to it. I felt every tear and moan of pain.
At first I didn’t like Ivy that much. I felt that she was a weak character to tell the story through, and I just couldn’t respect her much. Yet, as the story got rolling and I realized her circumstances, I liked her more and more. She’s a woman who is dealing with the trauma and tragedy surrounding her to the best of her ability, trying to help others and provide comfort where she can. I grew to like her sweet and caring side more and more as the story progressed.
Daniel I liked from the start. A character visited by tragedy early on, he’s understandably angry and finds it hard to forgive. He takes restitution where he can and in so doing starts to find forgiveness and peace I liked seeing how his character changed and developed as the story progressed; by the end, his anger is outbalanced by clemency. His primary motivators are no longer those negative emotions but rather love and protectiveness.
Again, I am surprised and impressed by this author. I enjoyed her other book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, for its intriguing exploration of lesser known historical aspects and the supernatural. This one pleases on the same fronts. Delicate use of the supernatural elements and a riveting historical fiction story kept me spellbound. Ivy and Daniel grew on me the longer I read about them. To me, this is another example of how excellent an author Ms. Winters is. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of supernatural to their historical fiction.