Ghost Wood Song By Erica Waters
First, thank you to Becky at Crooks Books (Review of Ghost Wood Song Linked) and Amanda at Devouring Books (Review of Ghost Wood Song Linked) for putting Erica Waters’ debut on my radar. Amanda had reviewed it a few weeks ago and said I would love it, which means I probably will. However, I am so overloaded with publishing dates changing…
…that I didn’t think I could fit it in as an ARC. Then my co-blogger, suggested it as a buddy read, and how could I say no? We are on a roll. So, I downloaded Ghost Wood Song and was ready to go. Then, as most of you know, I had some devastating news with my mom and nephew just after and had to step back for a few days. So, what absolutely should have been a buddy read, was not, which is why I must thank Becky. And also, both of them, because holy devil in a blue dress, Erica Waters’ debut, Ghost Wood Song, has no right being a debut book. Unless Erica Waters has her own cat council conjuring magic, in which case, Liam wants answers NOW; this cannot be allowed. It just isn’t fair.
Grief and shame. If you haven’t noticed, I am big on storylines dealing with the theme of shame because I profoundly relate to it. Most recently, I addressed it in my review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn. It is one of my significant connections to Kaz Brekker, and Erica Waters tackles generations of it. The family trauma inflicted on both individuals, and an entire family, in Ghost Wood Song is achingly powerful. It dictates a lifetime of shame that often starts at birth due to the last name and circumstances already that already exist. Everyone has a right to write their own life story and not have it pre-determined by the judgments of others before taking their first breath.
“How dare you, Shady Grove.” My cheeks begin to burn with shame.
“…stay at home like a good girl and try to make something better of yourself than the rest of your family ever did.” He goes on lecturing me about his family name and his power in the community, the weight and influence he wields… He doesn’t ever say the words “trailer trash,” but they are implied in every syllable he speaks. He thinks my family is nothing, is garbage, is weak. He thinks we will lie still while he destroys us.”
Intimidating tactics and threats based on the actions of past generations shouldn’t ever take place. And if someone must knock your worth to heighten their status, by bully tactics dealing in the judgment of your family? That is a reflection of them; the shame belongs to them, not you. Internalizing and practically applying reality and truth is, of course, incredibly difficult.
Grief is a beast because while the pain is bone-deep, not everyone processes it the same. At that heightened sensitivity, it is easy to take offense and perceive others’ actions as a sign of not grieving at all. Throw-in guilt (whether it should be felt or erroneously placed), and it is a perfect storm for a nuclear detonation. Right in the middle of this storm is Shady. There is so much trauma, grief, and shame swirling around her that no one is willing to speak the truth to give her the power to stop it.
The Corporal And Transcendent
Shady is the main character in a wide array of corporal and transcendent characters of Ghost Wood Song. Erica Waters does justice to every single one. Each has an integral part to play with purpose and intent. There isn’t a character that sounds typical, surface, or similar to any other character in the book. Each has their own journey, while also coming together to encompass the entirety of the story.
Waters runs the gamut of a large group of teenagers sounding like teenagers while having the adults sound like adults. Their interactions with each other are authentic and realistic, both situationally and interpersonally. The LGBTQ representation is strong. It isn’t my lane to speak to it in depth. So, I will just say that it handled bi-sexuality in the context of a community and girl strong in her identity that she could have feelings for a boy and girl at the same time, with all parties in understanding it. There wasn’t any trauma as far as sexual identities go. It was a given, just assumed. And that, to me, was refreshing. The trauma was only around who Shady was going to choose.
Thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The transcendent characters, I can’t speak of in much detail without spoiling a lot of things. They are, like the corporal characters, incredibly well written. None of them are just plot devices utilized for shock value or to move characters along. Each has a purpose and their own development to go through. If you keep trying to run from your past without dealing with it, it tends to catch-up. In Ghost Wood Song, it doesn’t just catch-up, the skeletons in the closet become ghosts. And they are ready to spill the tea.
Strike Up The Band
Music is a force. I think it is, and I have always believed in musical karma, even if I have had a strained relationship with it for a couple of years. The day my nephew attempted to commit suicide last week, Gerard Way released a new song for Umbrella Academy, so there’s that. I have a million and one stories about musical karma.
Waters weaves musical karma throughout Ghost Wood Story with brilliance. Shady’s soul connection to the fiddle and the music raising ghosts of the past is spectacular. It is all about how music can bring pain, healing, and joy. It is a beautiful love letter to the emotional impact of music because no matter the emotion that a song brings, it always brings it.
When Waters isn’t using music to define the tone of Ghost Wood Song, she is writing narrative and dialogue that can melt an iceberg. I’m not even sure what that means but go with it. Her spectrum of talent for different types of style is without boundaries. As mentioned with the themes, all those heavy emotions are nailed throughout the book, but you also have moments of creepiness and anger that I did not expect.
It Is All Connected
Oh, Shady. She spends Ghost Wood Song trying to prove that her brother Jesse did not commit murder. To this, she also has to unearth generations of trauma that riddles her family. Shady knows in the core of her being that everything is connected. She is this meme the entire book.
The only difference is she is running around with her fiddle instead of a cigarette. While she is running around raising hell, sometimes literally, to get information and painfully piece it all together, not only are there those among the living who have a lot more information than they are willing to give up. Even worse, they are actively trying to stop her from doing anything at all. I WAS READY TO STRING THEM WITH PIANO WIRE.
Every time Shady finally put puzzle pieces together, someone said- yeah, I knew that, and I’m like…
If you had just told her the pieces you did have, then this could have been a lot easier. But then, I remembered. Shame, grief, and guilt. You let it rule you, and the decisions that come out of it will not be good ones. Ultimately, that is why no one speaks the truth. They are either ashamed, grieving, or feel guilty about something they know. That leaves Shady to figure it all out, often putting herself and others in danger because of it.
So, while I was utterly frustrated with Shady, I had to give credit to Waters. The way she wrote, it was realistically correct, and the frustration I felt is why I connected with Shady. Additionally, it is what gives the side characters their complexity and depth, a chance to grow throughout the story.
Ghost Wood Song isn’t just about facing the past. It is about healing the past and facing your future. Sometimes it is easier to blame yourself for things than it is to go through the pain of forgiving yourself and others. That is the only way to let joy filter through, rather than the ghosts that want to haunt you. That is more important than what anyone else thinks.