Review: The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

A supernatural story of love, ghosts, and madness as a young couple, newly engaged, become live-in caretakers of a historic museum.

When Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe decide to move to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia, New York, they aren’t running away, exactly, but they need a change. Their careers have flatlined, the city is exhausting, and they’ve reached a relationship stalemate. Hannah takes a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, a museum dedicated to an obscure nineteenth century philosopher, and she and Nick move into their new home–the town’s remoteness, the speed with which she is offered the job, and the lack of museum visitors barely a blip in their considerations. At first life in this old, creaky house feels cozy–they speak in Masterpiece Theater accents, they take bottles of wine to the swimming hole. But as summer turns to fall Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping and she hears whispers in the night. One morning Nick wakes up to find Hannah gone. Now, in his frantic search for her he will discover the hidden legacy of Wright House: a man driven wild with grief, and a spirit aching for home.

The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Donick. Published by Pantheon Books, 2018. Hardback edition, 236 pages. Local book club’s June 2019 pick.

I was super bummed about this book. I had waited over a year to read it and it turned out to be pretty disappointing. It was such a frustrating read that I didn’t even finish it. I normally don’t review and rate books I have put in the DNF pile, but this one was so annoying I felt I needed to explain why it was DNF’d. I had several problems with this book

My biggest problem with this book was the authors writing style. OMFG it drove me bananas! Long sentences with so many commas. All the time. I don’t know if this is how the author normally writes or if this was just supposed to be how Nick’s thoughts were, but it was super annoying. It didn’t feel beautiful to me. It felt rambling and pretentious AF. I felt like I could have played a drinking game every time I saw a comma. Yes, everyone has their own writing style. This one just did not work for me.

Also not working for me? The main characters Nick and Hannah. They were not very likeable and their relationship was so dysfunctional! I’m not saying you can’t write about a dysfunctional family. You can. But there needs to be SOMETHING there for us to actually care about the people involved and what they are going through.. 30 pages in and I was already done with Nick and Hannah’s crap. I love reading stories where I hate everyone, said no one EVER. And somehow, they are supposed to be some epic love story, destined to meet over and over for all of time? What the (and I can’t stress this enough) fuck? Them?? How?? They were on shaky foundation the whole time and never seemed to have any hint of epic love!! UGH.

I thought there were going to be ghosts. I don’t feel like we really got ghosts. There were a few things that might have been ghosts, but at the same time it just felt like everyone was suffering from mental health issues. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for talking about mental health issues. I just freaking HATE when a story leads up to supernatural events and then doesn’t properly deliver them and instead gives you some crap of “Maybe it’s all in their heads!! Dun Dun DUUUUNNN! OOooOOoOOoOOO!!! ” No. NO. You can fuck right off with that. If I wanted to read a psychological non-ghost story, I would have picked something that DIDN’T sound like it was a ghost story! 😡

AGH!! This book was so frustrating, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore!! 😡

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