Thursday, March 11, 2010

ghost by Alan Lightman

ghost by Alan Lightman.

Borrowed from my local public library.

*** "Engrossing."

From the inside cover: "David is a person of modest ambitions who works in a bank, lives in a rooming house, enjoys books and quiet walks by the lake. Three months after unexpectedly being fired from his job, he takes a temporary position at a mortuary. And there, sitting alone in the 'slumber room' one afternoon at dusk, he sees something that he cannot comprehend, something that no science can explain, something that will force him to question everything he believes in, including himself..."

My local librarian, Adam, knows me well. I'm a "frequent flyer", so to speak. These days, I make good use of the virtual library. I browse the catalogue online, and reserve books that I would like to borrow. I check (online) to see when the books are ready for me, and trot up to the library to pick them up. I have a little chat with Adam about what I'm borrowing, then head next door to the local cafe to pick up a takeaway coffee. Easy.

Last time I was in, Adam pointed out the new books (new to the library, not necessarily newly released) on display behind his desk. This book's cover caught my eye immediately. A quick scan of the inside cover convinced me to try it.

Lightman's protagonist, David, is an appealing, all-too-human character. A thoughtful man, he is surprised to find that working at the mortuary suits him, and his father-son relationship with the director unfolds nicely. David's metaphysical experience unsettles him deeply, and causes him to ponder many unanswerable questions about life, death and reality. He describes his feelings as "skeptism combined with a powerful and unexplainable experience". He feels that he has caught a tantalising glimpse of something usually unseen, and he desperately wants to understand the meaning of it.

Unfortunately, a group called the Society of the Second World hears about David's experience via the local paper, and appropriates it for the purpose of gaining publicity for their organisation. Soon David is the centre of a public row between the scientists from the University and the Society of the Second World over the existence of the supernatural. At the same time, David is struggling to negotiate his confusion over his relationship with his girlfriend, and the sudden reappearance of his ex-wife after 8 years.

I enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and world of the mortuary "family", and I could identify with David's intellectual questions. Unfortunately, though, I found the ending very unsatisfying, leaving far too much unresoved for my liking. This book probably won't be to everyone's taste, but if it appeals to you then you should give it a try.

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