From Publishers Weekly
More poignant than terrifying, this contemporary ghost story set in suburban Connecticut focuses on the survivors of a car accident that killed three teenagers on Halloween exactly a year before the novel begins. Tim escaped without a scratch, but seeks to assuage his survivor's guilt on the first anniversary of the event. Kyle, once a teen rebel, is now a brain-damaged shadow (a kind of zombie) of his former self. Brooks, the townie cop who discovered the accident, watches helplessly as his life skids out of control. And most poignant of all, Nancy Sorensen, Kyle's mother, stoically cares for her damaged son and tries to heal a marriage nearly destroyed by grief. These sad characters are haunted in another way as well, by the ghosts of the three killed instantly in the crash: Marco, Toe and Danielle, who address themselves directly to the reader. "We're on a mission," they say, but their objective is never explicitly stated; they just observe as the day's events unfold. Each character's story is told (and, eventually, woven together) in O'Nan's simple, searching prose, which captures the inchoate passion and longing of teenage life as well as the bleak resignation of middle age. O'Nan demonstrates remarkable restraint; there's no grasping for tragic meaning (the accident was "just something random that happened to us, bad luck," according to Marco) or melodrama. Despite some confusing shifts in time-it's occasionally hard to decipher what's happening now and what happened then-a coherent thesis of misfortune emerges: death has many victims, and the ghosts haunting the survivors don't only appear on Halloween.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The aftermath of a Halloween tragedy haunts a New England town on the one-year anniversary of a typical teen joyride that ended with a car wrapped around a tree. Toe, Marco, and Danielle were instantly killed. Kyle lives on, sort of; a severe brain injury obliterates the rebel in him, the accident leaving him with the mind of a child. Tim, "the lucky one" in the backseat, his arms around Danielle, survived but now has a death wish. Officer Brooks, the first on the scene, was terribly altered by the event, and his life is in shambles. Now, on Halloween, he fears that Tim is going to do something horrible. Travis and Greg, buds of Toe, don't want the day to go by without memorializing their dear departed friends. O'Nan, author of Wish You Were Here [BKL F 1 02], tells a ghost story from the point of view of Marco's ghost. Like the narrator of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones [BKL My 1 02], Marco (along with Danielle and Toe) can witness the lives of those they left behind, see the impact their deaths have had on the community, but have little direct effect on certain inevitabilities--an interesting literary contrivance that doesn't always pay off (see Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma (1998) and Hey, Nostradamus [BKL My 15 03] for other examples of this vantage point). O'Nan's voice is compelling, his prose lovely and evocative. Benjamin Segedin
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