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Between Ghosts by Garrett Leigh
This didn’t hook me at all, and I’m pretty bummed out about it. I’m such a big Garrett Leigh fan. I’ve liked everything of hers I’ve read‐ she writes cleanly and with a subtle style that’s really nice. Her characters are deep and true, and her plots are interesting. And the way she gets into emotions and relationships is really gorgeous. I do feel she’s definitely gotten stronger over time‐ her early stuff is decent and her middle stuff is really good and her latest, such as ‘Misfits,’ is amazing. So I was really hoping that ‘Between Ghosts’ would be even better. And it just… for me… wasn’t.
The plot is a good one‐ Connor is a journalist who tends to write fluff‐ish pieces, but after his brother, a soldier, is killed, his life takes a turn. He can’t get over his brother’s death, so he decides to go to Iraq to write articles about life during the war. He meets Nat, who, unbeknownst to Connor, was Connor’s brother’s best friend. Nat and Connor start falling for each other.
It’s a solid plot. There’s not a lot of room for surprises, but that’s fine with me. Usually. But here… I don’t know if it was the plot or the characters or what, but I could just not make myself involved in the story or the romance or anything.
Nat and Connor start to fall for each other right away, which is great. But I was never sure why. They seem to go from zero to sixty, and aside from pure, base physical attraction, there didn’t seem to be much of a reason for it at all. Physical attraction is a great reason for characters to want to bang, but not so much when an author’s trying to convince a reader that the characters are falling in love. I think Garrett Leigh writes great characters‐ but here, for me, the main characters were a bit… blah. They could have been anyone. I even had a hard time feeling for Connor, because he’s lost his brother, and we’re told that he’s miserable, but he doesn’t really… express it? I wanted to feel his loss, and I wanted to feel his romance, and I didn’t really end up believing in either one. (I also wasn’t sure why it was kept a secret that Nat was Connor’s brother’s friend. It didn’t seem to make a difference if Connor and Nat knew or not, but Garrett Leigh wanted us to think it made a BIG difference.)
The side characters were, I thought, really nicely done, and came across as unique people. But the plot, the war going on around them… very political. Which is fine! I’m totally up for a ‘why are we fighting this war book.’ Perfectly. But this isn’t anything new, at this point. You’ve got to give me something to be invested in. Not even a ton of action, but something that isn’t ‘Hey, look, we’re really messing up this country! Probably we shouldn’t be fighting this useless war!’ Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, everyone already knows this. There’s got to be more substance than that. And it didn’t ever really feel like there was. There was some stuff about a particular terrorist, but it all came back to these broad points, over and over. Which is fine. But you have to make it personal. Make me care about these things in relation to this particular story and characters. Make me feel like I’m reading a book and not a newspaper article. And this just… didn’t make me care in a personal way, anymore than I would have if it was a news piece.
Looking at other reviews, it seems that I was pretty much the only person who felt this way about this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood? But I don’t think so. I think it just didn’t do anything for me. It’s not even that I disliked it‐ I liked it. It was fine. Enjoyable enough, and the writing was still solid, and the side characters were nicely done. It’s worth reading, and if it had been anyone else, I probably would have been pretty happy with it. I just tend to expect a lot more depth and impact and just… more, from Garrett Leigh.
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