Publisher: Harper/Teen, June 2009
Nothing but Ghosts is a deceptively simple book, written in smooth, poetic language from the point of view of Katie D’Amore, a 16 year old girl whose mother died months before of cancer.
She blames herself for not seeing how ill her mother was becoming. She thinks about this as she begins to dig both in the library and as a worker on the property of a reclusive woman whom no one has seen in 50 years.
She talks to her mother as she goes through her day, here and there. There’s a yellow finch that won’t stop pecking on her window in the morning. There’s a little boy who keeps her grieving but creative father in touch with life while Katie is off on her own search for life after her mother’s death. There’s the beautiful librarian whose own life seems stalled while Katie sorts through a stack of seven boxes left behind by a mysterious person at the library.
There are no pyrotechnics, no sudden revelations, and there’s a whole lot of support there that Katie, at first, does not notice in her own grief. No blame is passed around and there is no melodrama. Katie deals with her own presence as a ghost within her own life.
Meanwhile, Katie isn’t the only person in the book searching for answers (why did this happen? what is the reason?). That other person is at first hidden in plain sight, and is part of the mystery Katie finds herself trying to solve in order to have her own questions answered: why my mother? why didn’t I see it? will I be able to love someone like my dad loved my mom? and many others.
Nothing But Ghosts is an emotional journey through grief, but it’s never overwhelming. Beth Kephart packs a lot into this modestly sized novel. There’s a lot more going on than Katie sees. It’s up to the reader to read between the lines.