Nearly everyone has gathered in groups against the darkness, exchanging spooky stories late into the night. It is a rite of passage that I and most of my friends went through as children, and then again as teens. There’s a delicious thrill that goes hand in hand with ghost stories and friends, and Karina Machado has captured it perfectly in Where Spirits Dwell. There’s something about the way that she weaves a tale that keeps a reader hooked. The content and atmosphere in her writing combine with her personal views to make a riveting read.
Following on the heels of the best-selling Spirit Sisters, Where Spirits Dwell focuses on the buildings that spirits inhabit. From stereotypically vintage mansions to modern houses and apartments, Where Spirits Dwell shows that ghostly spectres can show up anywhere and at any time.
Settling in for the first part of this book felt very much like those long ago ghost story sessions. Inevitably I would be reading during the night, tucked up in bed despite the heat and with every light in the house on. Stories of little dead girls leaning over beds to watch their occupants sleep, or of spirits trying to terrorise the living are exactly what I had expected and I anticipated and feared reading the next page in equal parts.
While it would be easy for Machado to keep Where Spirits Dwell lightly entertaining and safe, she goes much deeper. The initial chapters of this book are tantalising and frightening, but without much emotional impact beyond that. It’s sad to think of what these spirits might have suffered, but many of the stories are fixed in the past and do not seem to touch us here in the present. The tone shifts drastically in the latter part of the book. Drawing on stories from the mothers of deceased children, Machado ventures out of the safety of traditional ghostly tales, personalising and giving a face to the tragedy. The stories here are poignant, terrible and desperate, but Machado tells them with a respectful honesty that is almost heart-breaking.
Machado’s friendly, thoughtful voice anchors Where Spirits Dwell for readers; giving the early chapters all the qualities of a good ghost yarn and the later chapters the depth of thought and respect they need. The content is comprehensive, and the research was obviously vast and time-consuming. These things made for an amazing story and Machado’s writing style is enough to get me right on to her previous book, Spirit Sisters.
Where Spirits Dwell – Karina Machado
Hachette (September, 2011)