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Women and Ghosts Paperback – March 7, 1995
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Ghostly hauntings, both literal and metaphorical, are the subject of this delightful Halloween treat by one of America's wittiest and most literate novelists. An irresistible blend of realism, satire and fantasy, each story is delightfully spooky and satisfying.
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What spurs the spectre of a runaway wife to put the fear of matrimony into her would-be successor? Who are the real "Pool People" seen by a small girl at her obnoxious grandmother's Key West home? Why does a trick-or-treater in bunny pajamas lure a pretty, perfect woman into the darkness of "Another Halloween"? America has surely not grown slimmer since Lurie envisioned a hefty wife, dieting while her husband's abroad, seeing more and more "Fat People" wherever she goes, beckoning her to join them and eat, eat, eat.
These are not "literary" ghost stories, not even the one describing a case of metempsychosis (though the term isn't used) in Wordsworth's sheep-stocked Lake District. Even a chronicle of being stalked by a dead lover's resentful shadow-self descends from the confident oral storyteller, who knows just how to rouse disturbing uneasiness in her listeners.
Some reviewers, craving Gothic goose bumps, cited "déjà lu" and found "Women and Ghosts" short on fright. (Wait till their negative soul mate tracks and takes them down as one did to "The Double Poet.") As the pages turned I too got the creepy conviction that I recognized these nine tales, somehow. But how? I don't forget what I read: I work as a proofreader. (When I go to post this, what if "I" have reviewed it already?) But though I may have met up with "The Highboy" before (a predatory heirloom bent on its self-preservation), that did not reduce what the French call its "frisson" one volt. You'll feel it too.
These stories also allow us to catch up with characters from the novels. Who would have thought that Janet Smith's eldest son would marry that child of LA beatniks, Astarte Tyler, from The Nowhere City. Or that bratty Charley Fenn, 6 years old in Love and Friendshio, would someday find happiness with solemn Silly Zimmern, 9 years old in War Between the Tates?
So I would give this 5 stars for a Lurie afficionado, but maybe fewer for someone who is looking for a simple thrill.