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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee

A book lover’s book. This author loves books; it shows, and it’s hard to resist. Or maybe that’s my perception because I’m a book lover.

It has an intriguing plot. Travis’s parents get new jobs and move to a suburb that Travis hates, at first. He does manage to befriend a funny, feisty guy named Hil. When the local library is due to close because of lack of funds, Travis gets involved with a plan to try to save-the-library. He also has a conflict to work out with his parents regarding their new lives and their busy new jobs.

The more intriguing aspect of the story is that the library is located in the hometown of John Steinbeck, a favorite author of Travis’. Travis starts seeing characters from Steinbeck’s novels, the ghost of Steinbeck himself behind the curtains of Steinbeck’s old home, and finally, he encounters 2 characters from Steinbeck’s novels face-to-face. The purpose is that they want him to tell a story that Steinbeck did not finish properly.

The best part of the book is the interest it may evoke in your tween reader to further explore Steinbeck’s novels. A list, book synopses, and suggested reading order of them appear at the back.

One thing that raised a red flag was the ghost issue. There was no channeling of spirits or evocation of the dead; these ghosts simply existed to convey a message to Travis and his friends. The author begins to get at something important when he starts to try to describe the mystery behind them but is stunted by his lack of Catholic imagination. His explanation of mystery starts to touch on Catholic theology, but he cannot quite grasp what he is missing as he has the post-modern ignorance of Catholic teaching.

The most compelling piece in the book is the description of the human need to tell stories. Travis addresses “Silence,” and in the end writes this about the library, “And if the library closes, then all those books and all those words, they’ll be silent forever. You can’t let that kind of silence into the world. Make a noise.”

Hear. Hear…

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