For anyone who has lost their mother, Beth Kephart’s YA novel, Nothing But Ghosts is a gift. In it, 16 year-old Katie navigates the lonely and traumatic days after her mother dies of cancer by solving the mystery of what happened to Miss Martine, the shut-in who lives in the estate down the road. When Katie is hired to help dig a spot for a new gazebo at the estate, the experience draws her out in the present – even as she investigates the past.
Kephart’s novel is beautifully written and Katie is a thoughtful and likeable character. Kephart expertly weaves a story that casts a light on several characters who have been broken by events in the past. Katie’s own story, and that of her parents, is told through her memories of a family trip to Spain. In remembering she thinks:
She’d kept her secret the whole trip long. She stood in the strange, chill mist, alone, alive, but knowing what would come. History is never absolute truth. It isn’t just the thing that was. It’s the thing that could have been.
Her father, a brilliant art restorer, is drowning in his own grief. The librarian who helps Katie dig into the history of Miss Martine’s life has had her own heartache. Even Sammy, the little boy who lives across the street has had his share of disappointments.
Nothing But Ghosts is a story about loss, but it is also a story about love and rebirth and hope. Katie must travel the road to acceptance on her own, but she does it with a grace that belies her age.
I very much enjoyed this book.