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Going Through Ghosts (WEST WORD FICTION) Paperback – February 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sojourner's suspenseful and finely observed second novel (after several story collections and works of nonfiction) reaches deeply into Native American lore as it pursues an unlikely friendship between two hard-luck women—one living, one dead. Maggie Foltz (aka Maggie May for tips) is a cocktail waitress with a heart of gold at the Crystal Casino in Creosote, Nev. At 54, Maggie is weary of falling for charismatic men and helps Sarah, a young transient, get a job at the casino. Sarah, who grew up in the small Willow tribe of Bone Lake, has fled man trouble of her own, and the two women become pals—all too briefly before Sarah is murdered. However, their friendship only intensifies from here on, as Sarah returns—with the help of the Willow healer Minnie Siyala—and guides Maggie back to Bone Lake to resolve spiritual issues. In punchy, alternating points of view, Sojourner introduces potential murderers and plenty of quirky customers as Maggie helps Sarah's spirit transition to what comes next. Sojourner's sympathy for her characters is palpable and gracious, making this a notable and worthy effort. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sojourner’s portrayal of the down-and-out casino town of Creosote, Nevada, is simultaneously dreamlike and brutally honest, drawing the reader into the lives of three central characters, while at the same time extolling the palpable beauty of the mountain west. Maggie is a 55-year-old cocktail waitress with mostly bitter memories of a lackluster past. She meets and falls for a Vietnam vet wracked by memories of the atrocities he saw and heard, still dreaming of loved ones he left in a village later destroyed by napalm. About the same time, Maggie takes Sarah, a young Native American woman, under her wing, finding her a job at the casino café. After Sarah is brutally murdered by a probable serial killer, her spirit enlists Maggie’s help in finding her way back to the land of her ancestors, the Willow tribe from the northern part of the state. Sojourner skillfully weaves the wounded pasts and hopeful futures of these characters into a thoughtful portrayal of the unshakable human instinct to survive, despite unspeakable suffering and haunting memories. --Deborah Donovan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nevada Press (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874178096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874178098
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,568,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I began writing professionally in 1985 after what seemed a century of being a divorced mom (with all its richness, chaos - and 5 am to midnight days and nights). I drove West from a Great Lakes city, from wet gray and green to the huge skies and sacred mountains and deserts of Flagstaff, Arizona. I went as a promise to myself to write and fight for the earth. My writing - three novels: Sisters of the Dream, Going through Ghosts and 29; short story collection: Delicate; essay collection:Bonelight:ruin and grace in the New Southwest; , two memoirs: Solace: rituals of loss and desire, and She Bets Her life; dozens of national NPR commentaries and hundreds of magazine and newspaper columns - serves that vow.

From 1985 to 2008, I lived in a wallboard and scrap lumber cabin with no indoor plumbing and a woodstove for heat. My back porch faced into a Ponderosa grove, where one foggy morning I saw a young elk stag calmly watching me. like a ghost of an earlier time. Flagstaff, as have so many Western mountain towns, became a playground for the rich and entitled. Too many of us could no longer afford to live there. I moved to a ragged little town in the Mojave Desert after a series of losses that had taken me down to bone. The Mojave burned away what was left. If you have lived through any form of annihilation - deaths, addictions, wasting illness, depression, losing beloveds, feeling the threads that connect you with a place being destroyed - you know. I went north to Bend, Oregon in 2009. I missed the desert every other breath; I finally found my way into the basin-range sagebrush and basalt about 15 miles east of town. That huge space kept me alive - not just physically.

Loss and change are the fuel for my writing. Gratitude moves my pen. A cluster of seven Ponderosa near my old cabin near Flagstaff called me home in 2010. The cabin was gone. I live now in a single-wide trailer in an old suburb south of town. My windows look out on another Ponderosa grove. I've seduced a gang of ravens and two Abert squirrels with corn chips and peanuts. This morning, the light outside my window is an alchemist's meld of the gray skies of my Eastern birthplace and the fierce blue of the Southwestern sky. There is a pinyon juniper desert to the north, east and south of my home. I count myself blessed to have been returned from a three year exile. The only forms of gratitude that are real are to write and to fight for the earth, even though a handful of us were unable to stop snow-making desecration on the sacred mountains here. (To learn more, http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/08/from-sacrilege-to-sacredness-whats-the-big-deal-about-snowmaking/)

I carried away more stories from the Mojave than I can ever write in this lifetime. My new novel, 29, set in that fierce gorgeous place, is being published in August 2014 by Torrey House Press. In it, Nell Walker, a former big pharmo executive, finds herself living in a women's shelter in 29 Palms, California; falling in love with a man both irresistible and forbidden; and joining the local Chemehuevi people to battle the invasion of the solar energy industry in the fragile land and spiritscape of the Mojave. http://www.amazon.com/29-Mary-Sojourner/dp/1937226352

Along with most working writers these days, I have had to find work to support my writing. I teach writing in a private circle in Flagstaff and on-line from http://www.breakthroughwriting.net My website contains weekly writing help and a serialized novel, Fort Slaughter, set in Flagstaff, as well as information on how to work with me as your mentor.

My 2010 Psychology Today blog, She Bets Her Life is at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/she-bets-her-life
My Matador blog, Dispatches from the Land of No Return is at: http://matadornetwork.com/community/marysojo/
You can keep up-dated on my readings, signings and conference appearances on my web page.
You can hear the NPR commentaries from 2000 to 2008 on at NPR.org, Morning Edition, Mary Sojourner in the archives.
And feel free to contact me on my webpage - I'm always open to questions.

Here is a taste of 29:

I. In The Short Run

...in the short run, we are responsible...
--Walt Richardson, Always Was and Always Will be Love

The hives burned gold in the last wash of desert sunset. A quarter moon moved up into the darkening sky, the lights of a desert city a dirty smudge above the eastern range. An agreement was reached. It was time to go.
One by one, the bees ascended, as though a coil of smoke rose from the hives. Bee by bee, the spiral thickened, swirled across the moon and was gone. The hum faded.
Deep within the hive the Queen waited alone.

The bees were gone. Nell jolted awake, opened her laptop, searched for bees leaving and was sent to the morning's New York Times. The bees were there. Rather, they were not there. Five hundred thousand bees had left the boxes their keeper had placed near a California almond orchard.
"I have never seen anything like it," Mr. Bradshaw, 50, said. "Box after box after box are just empty. There's nobody home."
She checked her email. Five messages, three of them form rejections from the last ten jobs she had applied for, one message from what had once been her bank, thanking her for having been their customer, and one message from an old schoolmate wondering if she had any openings in her department. She wrote back: I'm no longer with Elysian. Good luck in your search. She logged off and lay back down.
She felt as though she had come awake in an unfamiliar room, hunting clues for what to do next. The big French windows shone pewter. Dawn had begun to drift up behind the old palms in the yard across the street. The parrots that nested in the trees would be waking. A silk shirt draped over a chair seemed a luminous after-image, the near-empty closet no longer a shock. The room was silent, the light on the answering machine steady. The only time a prospective employer phoned was if one had been hired.
It had been a year since HR had called her in and told her that the firm was reorganizing and she had a week to clear out her desk. At first she'd been frantic, then resigned, then paralyzed. This morning she could at least keep moving. She could do that much. She got out of bed, pulled her suitcase from under the bed and packed: two silk shirts, the deep plum skirt and jacket, a beige linen skirt, the old sequined flip-flops, the dark jade sandals with the baby heels, four pairs of thongs, a bra, two loose cotton workout tops and pants, a bar of lemongrass soap, a plastic vial of hotel shampoo, a bottle of Cinnabar nail polish, and a vial of pills.
The eastern window glowed pink. Nell closed the suitcase. She slipped into jeans and a t-shirt, laced up her Asics runners. The laptop and notebook would fit in her shoulder bag, her iPod, cell, and wallet in her purse. She took the last object hanging on the wall--a black pearl hung from a silver chain--and tucked it in her pocket. She would leave everything else as it was: the turned-down bed; the empty room-length closet; what was left in the kitchen and the unopened copy of Eat, Pray, Love that the young woman who took over her office had sent with the note: Best of luck on your new adventure, Nell.
She would brew a cup of coffee from the last of the beans. She would leave the windows open, the last tangerines sliced open on the sill. She would put on the t-shirt and jeans thrown across the foot of the bed and take her coffee to the front stoop. If she were lucky, the parrots would fly down from the black palms across the street. They would bend their scarlet heads and feed.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ShotByGunn on March 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
The odds weren't looking good in the first few pages of GOING THROUGH GHOSTS. It moved way too fast and used a gambling lingo that was a bit grating for my after-work brain. Then, after getting to know Maggie and a few of her frenetic friends, I had an experience like I had had years ago with those color stereograms in the newspaper: I crossed over. I could see the 3-D image, or in this case, understand the characters' words, their frustrations, their fears, and their complex lives in and out of the casinos. I liked them.

GOING THROUGH GHOSTS is a cultural dive into waters I've not swum before. And like the journey that Maggie takes, I made it to the other side and came back - all the better for it. Sojourner channels these fictional folks with humility and style and humor. She keeps the story moving, moving, moving. I await the sequel with antici...pation. (I mean.... I want to know what affect watching "Paris Is Burning" with his aunt will have on Zach later in life! And what does Ralph Too think of love between old friends?)

I want back in the water.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
A cocktail waitress at 54, Maggie Foltz works at the Crystal Casino in Creosote. That's where she meets Sarah, a member of the Willow tribe of Bone Lake. An unlikely friendship begins which makes Sarah's murder all the more jarring for Maggie. Then with the help of Minnie Siyala, a Willow band healer, the spirit of Sarah guides Maggie to Bone Lake and an ultimate resolution. "Going Through Ghosts" is a deftly written page-turner of a novel with author Mary Sojourner bringing even her peripheral and supporting characters to life in the mind's eye of the reader. Of special note is Sojourner's inclusion of Native American elements into her riveting story making "Going Through Ghosts" a strongly endorsed addition to community library contemporary fiction collections and personal reading lists.
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By Amazon Customer on October 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book over a year ago, and still think about it. The author's descriptions about the people, as well as how and why they live in small gambling towns throughout Nevada is truly amazing. This book will give you a deeper understanding, and also appreciate why someone would choose to live in a small town in the middle of the desert. The author has a wonderful ability to paint pictures with her words. I absolutely loved it!
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By Courtalls on July 30, 2014
Format: Paperback
Going through Ghosts could be retitled as Going through Molasses. Too many threads--didn't seem to be making a weaving. I gave up and didn't finish.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on January 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the story of a bunch of very depressed people living shallow lives moving from one confusion to another with no resolution whatsoever, no epiphanies, no sense of getting anywhere. A story of moving from one place to another in limbo without ever coming into touch with who they are. Reading the other reviews makes me wonder what book they read because they sure are not describing what I read. Terrible book.
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