The audiobook of this story is excellent, incorporating a variety of accents and connecting listeners easily to the narrative. 12-year-old Ophie has a secret: she sees ghosts everywhere she goes. But it isn't until she moves from Georgia to Pittsburgh that the ghosts increase in intensity and she discovers there is more to her ability than she realizes. The last few chapters turn much of the story sideways, unfolding in a well-crafted, spine-tingling delivery that had me gasping out loud. Blending history with the paranormal, this is a well-written and superb addition to the genre of middle grade literature. Please see my full review below!
It is 1923, and Ophelia Harrison and her mother have fled the grips of Jim Crow-era Georgia for the relative freedom of a life in Pittsburgh with some of Ophelia's cousins. But ever since the night her daddy was killed three months before, Ophie has carried the secret of seeing ghosts wherever she goes. Pulled from school to work alongside her mother at Daffodil Manor, Ophie's unusual ability becomes even more pronounced, and despite promising her Aunt Rose she would keep her distance from the Haints she sees, Ophie is drawn to guide them to peace by helping to complete their unfinished business.
This story is engaging and insightful, reading as a blend between historical fiction and magic realism. Life in Pittsburgh in the early 1920s is captured in plentiful detail through Ophie's travel through the city and the interactions she has with the people living there. Mentions of the Great War and Andrew Carnegie anchor the story in true events even as Ophie herself communes with those who have passed on. And mentions of her family's legacy connect Ophie to her roots from generations before.
While the majority of the story surrounds Ophie and her experiences, occasional chapters give anthropomorphic natures to entities including the Pennsylvania Railroad and Pittsburgh itself. These asides enhance the supernatural approach of the story and give these inanimate objects the feel of living things. Whether or not readers have found themselves in the locales described in this story, they will nonetheless absorb their personalities through these cleverly included additions.
Well-written and thoughtful, this book is one that will resonate with readers of a range of ages. Ophie is a character who is approachable and empathetic, trying her best to be what the world expects even as she recognizes and questions the injustices of the time. It is worth noting that moments of light horror are found in the final chapters of the book, increasing the intensity of the novel and engaging with readers who enjoy tales that raise the hairs on the backs of their necks. Filled with heart and a deep recounting of a specific time in history, Ophie's Ghosts is an excellent addition to library collections for middle grade readers.
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