That’s one of the big questions for Michael throughout this book: “Why me?” The first few chapters are really pretty sad. He hangs around his funeral and watches his family and friends fall apart, and his death seems unjust and meaningless to everyone. And…he’s clearly become a ghost. He didn’t move on and didn’t see any bright light or angels. As is plain from the title, this book is about being a ghost, and I was intrigued as to how an author would pull this off from the start. What now? How much is there to the world of ghostliness?
Well, plenty! And Marlo Berliner brings this strange dead world to life in a beautiful way. Michael’s new state of existence is gradually described as he figures things out on his own. “Hey, my ghost body feels solid to me.” “Wow, I can sort of fly. But I prefer to walk.” “Hhmmm…Where are all the other ghosts?” These aren’t actual quotes from the book, simply the kind of thoughts I think anyone would have upon finding out they’re dead and didn’t move on. The experience is believable and realistic, more akin to a coming of age story than a fantastical one. The plot thickens as Michael meets other ghosts, falls in love again, and begins to understand that his soul is in some way very important to the Devil. Yes, there are demons and even vampires mixed in.
What I liked best about this otherworldly tale is the natural, wordly way it’s written. We feel Michael’s pain and desire to find answers, in the midst of a story that could fit somewhere between the supernatural and religious sections in a book store. My one complaint would be his interaction with quite a few famous ghosts, because the story of "everyman" struggling with the age old questions of life and death gets a bit lost there. I do like Berliner’s spin on some historical events, however. The love story at the Angel of the Sea is loaded with picturesque scenes from a blockbuster romance, and Halloween night in Salem is great!
I would recommend this book to readers who question existence beyond the realm of the living, from middle school to middle-aged. Adult themes like sex, violence, and good vs. evil are handled respectfully, and the vivid characters come to life in the afterlife. Berliner has crafted a fascinating world, with layers of history and mythology intertwined, and this book is just the beginning of what promises to be an epic series.