Everyone loves a good ghost story, which is why, I suppose, that some readers have been disappointed with American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest by Hannah Nordhaus. Nordhaus's book, which explores the life of the author's great-great-grandmother Julia Schuster Staab, does start with sightings of a ghost, but then moves on to become part memoir, part history book, part journalistic endeavor. Indeed, the book is just as much about the author's struggles with investigating family history as it is exploring the haunting stories, which is why, in some places, the ghost of the book's title seems to get lost. Still, I found Nordhaus's personal journey into the past an enlightening and entertaining read.
Nordhaus starts her book by explaining that beginning in the 1970s, sightings were reported of a woman's ghost haunting La Posada, a hotel in Santa Fe. In the past, Las Posada had been the home of Staab, built for her and her children in the 19th century when the world of the American Southwest was still very raw and wild.
Using these stories as a way to introduce the mysterious, but troubled life, of her great-great-grandmother, Nordhaus dives into history, both personal and cultural, to find the truth of Julia's life and her death. During Nordhaus's journey, she consults psychics, takes a DNA test, reads family journals and old newspapers, and even travels to the old hotel itself in hopes of finding answers.
Thus, American Ghost is more than a ghost story. It's a story of two women: one who found herself struggling to find her place in a foreign desert land and the other searching for answers about a past that may never be clearly articulated.
For more information, see the website of author Hannah Nordhaus.
In many ways, I am more of a reader than a writer. This page will serve as a home for my informal reviews of what I've been reading.