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American Ghost: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451674635
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451674637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #629,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the opening of Owens’ fourth novel, Jolie Hoyt, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher in the backwater town of Hendrix, Florida, is unwittingly set up on a date by her dear friend, Lena. The suitor in the offing is one Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami investigating the history of Native Americans in Hendrix. Jolie is smitten by the smart and handsome big-city boy, who, if nothing else, could be her ticket out of her dreary hometown. But when Sam is shot during a family hunting trip, it becomes clear to Jolie that his “research” is far edgier than simple ethnography. He’s seeking closure for a crime committed against his family many years before. In a heartbeat, Sam disappears from Hendrix—and Jolie’s life. More than a decade later, a black businessman out to settle a score of his own arrives in Hendrix and brings the one-time lovers together again. The past haunts the present in this engaging, if occasionally overwrought, offering inspired by actual events. --Allison Block

Review

“Owens’s voice is as pure as a stream and as real as a plowed furrow. The South has rarely produced a writer this authentic and original. She is the real thing, at last.”

--Pat Conroy

Owens’ voice [is] so authentic and her characters [are] so alive. Their motivations, reactions and dialogue feel so true, they could-almost be real.”
—Paste

“A skillfully written, well-researched book…Owens brings a dark period of history to light in a book about Southern Allegiances, racial tensions and shameful acts.”
—Kirkus

“An engrossing story...showcases Owens’ talent for characterization and her ability to make settings come to life.”
—Publishers Weekly

"The past haunts the present in this engaging... offering inspired by actual events."
--Booklist

"A taut yarn about breaking silence."
--Good Housekeeping

“Owens weaves complex narrative strands together in a captivating story abundant with historical context and characterizations that reflect the foibles of human nature.” (Shelf Awareness)

"Owens brings the vibrancy of a small Southern community to bear on a gothic tale." (The New York Times)

"Owens’ detailed and well-researched portrait of west Florida bloodlines benefits from her obvious affection for its cast of colorful characters, and her descriptions of small-town life are a joy to read." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

More About the Author

Janis Owens is a novelist, memoirist, folklorist and premier storyteller. She is a native of old Florida, born in Marianna in 1960, the last child and only daughter of an Assembly of God preacher who later became a salesman for the Independent Life Insurance Company.

She attended the University of Florida, where she was a student of Harry Crews' Creative Writing Workshop and earned a degree in English with a minor in Southern history. She is the award-winning author of acclaimed novels: My Brother Michael, winner of the Chautauqua South Fiction Award for Best Novel, Myra Sims, The Schooling of Claybird Catts, and her latest, American Ghost (Scribner 2013.) Her essays on Florida life have appeared in the New York Times, Writer's Digest and many other publications. Author Pat Conroy has called her, "one of the finest novelists of our time."

Customer Reviews

The writing is subtle.
Amelia Gremelspacher
The basis of this story is very similar to an event that occurred in 1926 in the small town in South Florida where I live.
Rosewood
The story is engrossing, very well written.
Sandra G. Wangsness

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Angelia Menchan on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am done with one of my favorite books this years. It is filled with things I love, the south, Florida, flawed people, humor, love gone awry and HISTORY. There is so much about America and Florida's fractured history in these less than 300 pages that will make you go whoa. At the center of the Story is Jolie Hoyt who is poorer than po and of mixed heritage and lineage though her family screams, we ARE white. Then there is Sam Lense a Jewish anthropology student from the University of Florida via Miami who is at work on uncovering information about a lynching in 1938 in Hendrix, FL where Jolie resides. Well, I tell you what the story is so layered, I had to slow myself down, even picking up a recipe for yellow rice and pork along the way. I cannot tell you how this story touched me, you will have to read and see for yourself...AMERICAN GHOST is literature y'all, I kid you not~

Angelia Vernon Menchan
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book really snuck up on me. I hadn't read any coverage on it. I picked it up as an Amazon recommendation based on other books I had read. The story is a tale of ghosts who follow the lives of Jolie and her lover Sam in A tiny town in Florida. The town was the site of an infamous lynching in the 1930's, but had escaped the more notorious Roosewood attention.
Everyone in the book is "ethnic", not a white Christian. Sam has come to town to find out about his great grandfather and locate his grave. Sam is Jewish, a rare sighting in the back country of Florida. But he has told the town he is researching the roots of local Indians. Jolie is a Hoyt. Her grandmother says they are little Black Dutch. This is a name that comes to light to hide a variety of backgrounds, be they converted Jews in Spain, part black, part Indian.
The novel unwinds with the ghosts lingering on the edges of the stories. Soon we see that all of our characters have been tainted by this past. The ghosts are in fact the pasts that each person bears. The writing is subtle. Each word is well considered. The author never uses sensationalism or coyly palms a secret in the name of plot alone. The characters are complex and hugely satisfying. This is a lovely pearl of a book, and I hope people read it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By TheAssemblagist on October 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Janis Owens new novel truly represents her strongest, most compelling work to date. Her characters and their surroundings -- their foibles, their pride and their emotions -- come to life in every sentence, every paragraph. A proud moment for the South as another southern woman comes forth with a fascinating novel that gives us such depth, such rich detail that we can see these people as well as we see our family sitting across from us at the kitchen table.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Frank A. Green on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The only thing that could be better about this great novel is the copy editing that is disgusting for the taint it leaves on an otherwise masterpiece. I hope the subsequent printings correct the egregious errors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Morse on December 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Floridian since 1959, I am familiar with "white" and "colored" water fountains, restrooms, and even restaurants. As a white child, I wanted to use the water fountains that had colored water - ah, such innocence. What I was not familiar with was the other side of racism. Janis tells a research-driven little told story of rural, poor, white families struggling with the haunting legacy of the old South. Easy to condemn because of the evil of slavery and the ongoing bigotry still in 2012. Discomforting to contemplate the white families who have never been able to outgrow their deeply Southern history. Janis shines a gentle, understanding light on a story bigger than a stereotype.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rosewood on November 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The basis of this story is very similar to an event that occurred in 1926 in the small town in South Florida where I live. The people, the phrases, the habits and food are so familiar to me...living in this little town and having a mother from Alabama....moving to Miami....I was able to really relate to these characters.
Mostly, though, because it was told from within such an insular society that the perspective gave this mystery and love story it's unique flavor.
I enjoyed it so much, and have ordered the author's earlier trilogy from the library.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Ziemian on November 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written on a lynching that actually happened down in South Florida.But aside from the terrible circumstances that happen, there is a little something for everyone! A little romance, some southern heritage passed on & more! It's a fast read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KinksRock on December 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a powerful story of secrets and racism set in a swamptown in Florida. If I had to compare it to anything else, it would be the film "Lone Star" (see it if you haven't). Every chapter opens your eyes up more to the secrets the characters are keeping, compelling you to keep reading. I would give it five stars, except that two major events in the novel (which I won't disclose here to avoid spoilers but will present as questions for discussion on Shelfari) are not adequately explained as to the perpetrators' motives.
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