I’ve always enjoyed ghost stories and have been particularly interested in them during the past few months as I wrote one myself earlier this year. A few weeks ago, I read Following Disasters by Nancy McCabe.
Here’s how the publisher describes the novel: “On her twenty-first birthday, Maggie Owen receives an unusual birthday gift: a house. That same day, the house’s owner, her aunt, dies. For three years, Maggie has been fleeing her childhood demons: the deaths of her parents, estrangement from her terminally-ill aunt, and a betrayal by her best friend. But now her career on the road, following natural disasters in temporary insurance claims offices, ends abruptly as Maggie returns home to face her past. But why does the house hold a mysterious spell over her? Why does she have the persistent feeling that her aunt is haunting her? Why did her aunt lie to her about the circumstances of her parents’ deaths? Who is the ghost child that may be hanging around the house? And what’s with the guy next door who seems so hostile toward her? FOLLOWING DISASTERS is tightly woven ghost story that raises questions about legacies and their influence on our choices.”
I found this novel rather slow to get into as the main character, Maggie-Kate is a difficult person to get to know. She almost reluctantly reveals her story as she languishes in the house that she has inherited from her aunt, thinking about her past and reading her aunt’s journals. But the author has deftly created a multi-layered story that is gradually revealed through Maggie-Kate’s memories and her aunt’s writings. The two accounts of the past don’t always match and this compels the reader to keep reading. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that nothing is as straightforward as it might first appear.
As well as the challenging plot, the author has created complex characters, with sometimes conflicting motivations spurring their actions, and they seem more real as a result.
There are tense moments in the story but this isn’t a typical horror story or a ghost story that makes you want to hide under the bedclothes. Rather it’s a thought provoking supernatural tale and I found it intriguing rather than frightening. This story lingered in my mind after I read it and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story that makes them think.
About Nancy McCabe: Following Disasters is Nancy McCabe’s first novel. She has also published four books of creative nonfiction, including Meeting Sophie: A Memoir or Adoption; Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China; and From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. She is a regular blogger for Ploughshares and has published work in Newsweek, Writers’ Digest, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Fourth Genre, and other magazines and anthologies. Her work has received a Pushcart and six times made notable lists in Houghton Mifflin Best American anthologies.