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The Ghost Clause

Review

The Ghost Clause

Simon and Lorca may not have an easy marriage, but by all accounts, they have a solid one. That is, until the day that Simon keels over on a boat trip to Nova Scotia, and the whole thing comes crashing to an early end. Lorca is distraught, grieving and attempting to imagine a future without her husband. She makes the difficult decision to sell their beloved Vermont farmhouse to a young couple, Zachary and Muriel, who are looking for their first home. Lorca knows they are the right buyers, so she proceeds with her plan to move into her art studio and begin the process of finding the peace and courage she needs to move on alone.

Zachary and Muriel know that the house is right for them and quickly move in. Even after hearing about the ghost clause, which would force the original owner to buy back the house if a malevolent ghost resides there, it still feels like the perfect home to them. The funny thing is, the house is haunted. By Simon. After his death, he found himself back at the house watching Lorca, trying to finish some of the books he never got to while breathing, and rambling about the old farmhouse as if he were still alive and nothing had changed.

"I adored the characters and loved that an old farmhouse captivated me with its history and stories. Norman provides an excellent excuse to read the day away."

Simon watches Zachary and Muriel’s daily routines, comparing their lives to his and Lorca’s, especially when it comes to the struggle of conceiving. He keeps tabs on their lives as though the author in him won’t allow himself to stop observing and making notes for a story to come later. When a child goes missing, Zachary, an investigator with a local agency, becomes consumed with the case. Simon delves deeper into their lives, watching closely, reading their work, and making himself much too comfortable for someone who is dead.

Ghost stories are my thing --- the creepier the better. And sometimes it doesn’t even have to be scary for it to resonate as a ghost story. It needs to have that feeling of being watched --- and not simply watched, but observed, as if you’re on display. It’s that something that makes you feel a little queasy and on alert at the same time. On the surface, THE GHOST CLAUSE is a heart-wrenching story of endings and grief, but also of new beginnings. While Lorca, Zachary and Muriel are all starting new phases of their life, Simon isn’t. He’s just there with no purpose and no end. With nothing else to drive his days, he latches onto the humans in the place he used to live.

Howard Norman draws so many parallels between the two couples, and those comparisons pull at the heartstrings a tad tighter with each development. It’s sad but not overly so, and sometimes even heartwarming in the way that life can be in times of great sadness. It’s creepy, though not exactly how you’d expect. But then again, not all ghost stories must be scary to be effective.

While there are a few things I might quibble with, overall THE GHOST CLAUSE is a homey book that I didn’t want to put down. It lures you in, making you feel comfortable and safe. Then enters a ghost. I adored the characters and loved that an old farmhouse captivated me with its history and stories. Norman provides an excellent excuse to read the day away.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on July 19, 2019

The Ghost Clause
by Howard Norman

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0544987292
  • ISBN-13: 9780544987296