Spending the Weekend With Ghosts
I started reading Gwendolyn Kiste in 2018 and I’ve been steadily devouring her work ever since. Her words are like a storm cloud, like the fog rolling across the moors, and I love how she creates these dark, fantastical worlds with complex characters who tackle and explore themes of identity, vanishing, monstrosity, and transformation. Plus, her girls have teeth, history. They’re full of smoke and grit, but they also have a sadness about them, too, almost like they’re forever searching for something or someone they’ve lost, a spider misplaced, hungry, looking for its web.
Last week, I read her 2020 release, The Invention of Ghosts. It was a quick read filled with longing and madness, and it dripped with this delicious occult energy that I always love with my horror and that I’ve come to expect when reading Kiste’s work.
The novelette follows two best friends in college who are dealing with an array of secrets and suppression, and who have a tendency toward seances and an infatuation with spiritualism. Everly—the protagonist—is this intellectual and curious student who is interested in magic and mysticism and who tends to lean into and dance with the veil that hangs between worlds. She hears strange sounds in their dorm room, a tapping in the ceiling, and the more she tries to act normal, the more she realizes she is anything but, and this constant seesaw puts her on a path that forces her to deal with her ghosts for better or worse, especially after her best friend disappears.
I really enjoyed this read because I felt like it handled the erasure of young women particularly well while also hitting the familiar strokes of a ghost story. Kiste is smart, and she uses the genre to explore real-world issues like missing women, gaslighting, and PTSD to showcase how we deal with trauma, navigate grief, and learn to heal when it seems like everyone and everything—including our brains—are hellbent on protecting us, on blacking out the bad and burying the pain.
If you haven’t picked this one up yet, it certainly has my recommendation. I suggest reading it on a rainy, overcast day while you’re curled up near your window with some lavender tea, a cozy blanket, and Ouija board.
Just be sure you’re familiar with the ghosts you’re talking to.
Unwanted company is the stuff of horror stories, after all.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.