Title: Picking Up the Ghost
Author: Tone Milazzo
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Pub Date: 08/31/2011
Category: ADULT/YOUNG ADULT Ghost & Horror
Picking up the Ghost is an unusual and fascinating story about the search for identity and inner strength cleverly written in a way that is entertaining and accessible for teens.
Living in St. Jude, a 110-year-old dying city on the edge of the Mississippi, is tough. But when a letter informs fourteen-year-old Cinque Williams of the passing of the father he never met, he is faced with an incomplete past and an uncertain future. A curse meant for his father condemns Cinque to a slow death even as it opens his eyes to the strange otherworld around him. With help from the ghost Willy T, an enigmatic White Woman named Iku, an African Loa, and a devious shape-shifter, Cinque gathers the tools to confront the ghost of his dead father. But he will learn that sometimes too much knowledge can be dangerous—and the people he trusts most are those poised to betray him.
Fifteen-year-old Cinque gets a letter telling him that his father, who he has never met, has died. This begins his search to find out who is father was. When he starts to see ghosts, spirits and magical constructs, the search changes to another level. I can’t go into this too much without giving away the story, but I can say that there was an amazing array of strange and wonderful creatures, eg the octopus-like one with many yabbering mouths on the end of the tentacles and the variety of fibs (the result of his fathers lies). One of these spectres becomes dangerous and threatens Cinques potential for happiness, basically trying to make him take on the sins of his father – a great concept.
Cinque and the other characters are believable and realistic. In trying to handle these dangerous spirits and fibs, he runs into some people who say they can help, and they do to a certain extent. But at what cost? Over the period of the book, Cinque comes to questions others’ motives, rather than taking them on face value as he does in the beginning, and he ends up relying on himself rather than outside help. This is a clear analogy for the inner journey everyone must go through at some point in order to know themselves – the challenge of adolescence. As such, it is not just a great story, but also a deeply meaningful book.
I did have a little difficulty do to the cultural difference between me as an Australian and what was very much a black American context, primarily what I figured was voodoo speak. I don’t know if it’s being released in Australia or not, but if so, or even for a white audience, a word at the beginning that explains the magical context would be helpful.
I recommend it for anyone who likes something different, and anyone interested in the above themes. I think it would be particularly excellent for teenage boys, especially those with a Black American background. It’s a well written book and I give it 4 stars.