Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

Summary: Emily Stewart is the girl who claims to stand between the living and the dead. During the quiet summer of 1925, she and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins-privileged, precocious, wandering aimlessly around their family's estate. One day, Emily discovers that she can secretly crack her ankle in such a way that a sound appears to burst through the stillness of midair. Emily and Michael gather the neighborhood children to fool them with these "spirit knockings."

Soon, however, this game of contacting the dead creeps into a world of adults still reeling from World War I. When the twins find themselves dabbling in the uncertain territory of human grief and family secrets-
knock, knock-everything spins wildly out of control. -- Amy Einhorn

For whatever reason, when I first picked up THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD by Paul Elwork, I thought it was a going to be a ghost story; and if I'm being entirely honest, I'm usually not a big fan of ghost stories. Maybe it was the title or even the cover that had me thinking this book was going to be a little creepy, but I wasn't sure if this was going to be a book that would appeal to me. And then I reminded myself that it was an Amy Einhorn book and I usually appreciated books from this imprint. Plus the reviews for the novel were extremely good, so I thought I'd give it a try.

And boy am I glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, and this novel definitely ended up being more than just a story about some kids and ghosts. I read the entire book in just a day because I was so intrigued with not only the plot and the characters, but also the author's writing style. This novel was just a genuinely good story filled with a little intrigue, some mystery, and lots of family secrets. However, it was how this book explored grief that really resonated with me and made this book so special.

THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD tells the story of twins Emily and Michael. When Emily discovers that she can mysteriously make her ankle "knock" without moving, the twins decide to turn Emily's new talent into something a bit more interesting -- they pretend that the knocking sounds are ghosts speaking through Emily! At first, they entertain their friends and neighborhood children, and it's all fun and games; but it suddenly becomes much more serious when Emily begins using her skills to help adults contact their lost loved ones.

While this novel is definitely less about hauntings than I was expected, I still found it to be rather haunting (in a totally different way, of course.) In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this story took because it became much more somber, dark, and even tragic. What was seemingly an innocent childhood prank eventually became bigger than Emily could handle when she began speaking with adults, and specifically one of her friend's fathers. As Emily "spoke" with this man about his son who died during the War, she learned how incredibly large this man's grief was and how his pain encompassed his entire being. She quickly realized she was in way over her head with her game.

I definitely found THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD to be an all-consuming read. There is no doubt that I was anxious to see where the story and characters were going to go; and there was just enough family secrets to keep things interesting. However, what I most appreciated about this novel were the many serious themes that this book explored. I was blown away by how this book handled the issue of grief as well as the many different ways that people deal (or don't deal) with it. In addition, I was impressed with how well this book demonstrated the desperation certain people have to contact their lost loved ones and learn that there is some sort of peace for them.

THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD would make an interesting book club pick. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide on-line, but I do think there is plenty to discuss without the need for formal questions. Of course, the major themes that jump out to me are grief and loss, but there are also some interesting family secrets to talk about. Some of topics that you might find interesting include guilt, family dynamics, love, passion, war, desperation, forgiveness, and deception.

If I haven't convinced you to give THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD a try, then maybe the starred Publishers Weekly review will! Trust me... this book is not to be missed.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

14 comments:

Kate said...

Thanks for the review! I love both the title and the cover, so it's nice to know straight off that it's not really a ghost story. I will keep an eye out for this book, since I do run a book club and interesting books and topics are always a plus!

bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds like a fabulous book that would be easy to get caught up in. I can't wait to read it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds fun except I cringed every time you mentioned the ankle thing - it reminds me of cracking knuckles, which drives me crazy! But I love the premise - I want to find this one!

Beth Hoffman said...

When I first read about this book I put it on my list. Wonderful review, Julie!

Kay said...

I'm glad to know about this book. I'll be on the lookout. Love the cover.

Jenny Girl said...

The cover alone was enough for me, however your excellent review sealed the deal. I do like ghost stories, but even though this is not your typical ghost story, the human emotions running through the plot are intriguing. thanks Julie :)

heyiwanttoreadthat.com said...

I can't wait to read this one. I love the idea of this book, love the cover, love the title. I'm going to have to order this soon.

avisannschild said...

From the cover, I would have thought this was a ghost story too. Thanks for the great review -- this sounds like a book I'd enjoy too!

Patty said...

I preordered this a while ago and it appeared on my Kindle today...I was unsure about it...but now I think it sounds wondrous...

iwriteinbooks said...

Ah, another good and complex review of this. I'm really warming to the idea of the book. Like a few others have said, the cover turned me off, at first, but the more reviews I read the better I'm starting to feel about it.

Swapna said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this one - I read about 100 pages and just could not get into it, so I put it down. I think I should try again!

Beth F said...

I really must read this soon -- it's my Imprint Friday book this coming week.

Carrie said...

I have this one to review from Early Reviewers - glad to hear it's a good read!

Rachel said...

Great review! I loved the book too - for all the reasons that you mentioned.