I love a good ghost story, I always have. There’s something about the idea of another world full of spirits and souls watching and wanting to interact with the living that always appeals. The ghosts in ESPERANZA fill the void.
Tess Livingston is an FBI agent tracking a counterfeiting ring in Ecuador. Unfortunately, she can’t remember details about the case or how she came to be on a bus to the town of Esperanza high in the Andes Mountains. She arrives at a roadside stop to find out that her bus ticket won’t get her to Esperanza. In the midst of confusion, she takes a walk outside to gather her thoughts and is attacked by a local who tells her she doesn’t belong there. Soon after, her attacker ends up dead and Tess starts to wonder what is happening to her. Ian Ritter, another traveler who is also having trouble remembering his time in Ecuador, meets up with Tess, and the two commiserate about the iffy bus service, the strange locals and their odd trip. Finally, Tess and Ian are rescued by a man named Manuel, who gladly takes their bus tickets and tells them he will be happy to take them to Esperanza.
After arriving in town, they are taken to a hotel and their trip gets even stranger from there. Not only do both Tess and Ian feel they are being watched, but they find the locals’ behavior intimidating and slightly inhospitable. They have many questions that no one is willing to answer. And they can find no one who will talk about the dense fog that descends on the town that everyone seems to be terrified of. They eventually find someone willing to tell them the truth --- Tess and Ian are transitionals, individuals who are comatose in their own time periods, their spirits have traveled to Esperanza, and they are existing on a spiritual plane. The city of Esperanza was once myth, a place inhabited only by gods, but was brought into the physical world and is now home to spirits looking for a chance to experience life by possessing bodies for a short time. There is a battle raging between humans and these ghosts, and Tess and Ian are the keys in the mystical battle being fought.
ESPERANZA is a book that taps into fear on different levels. It starts off with a traveler’s fear --- finding yourself in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, are lost, and have no recollection of how you arrived at your destination. But then Trish J. MacGregor also adds the creepiness factor of being watched by something, or someone, you cannot see. >From there, she runs with the feeling, letting you know that you’re not alone and that those who have left us for the afterlife may not have left us after all.
There’s a small time-travel aspect to the book, but unfortunately the story isn’t as interesting when in either Tess or Ian’s respective time periods. This may have been due to the fact that I thought their stories worked better together rather than apart. What does work really well is the mythology of the ghosts, or brujos, as they are referred to. The term is a reference to South American witches and witchcraft and fits easily into the story. These ghosts have a world of their own that is almost as interesting as the world that they hope to inhabit, and gives the story one of its most interesting characters in Dominica, the ghost that leads the brujo tribe that lives in Esperanza. The setting of Esperanza is a place full of mystery, culture and a mythical undercurrent that lends a nice otherworldly factor to the story.
The ending does feel a bit rushed, and the battle doesn’t feel quite as epic as it should have, but it’s a satisfying enough ending. While parts of it do drag, the mythology of the ghost story here is what makes ESPERANZA worth the read.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on January 21, 2011