A Book Review for Ann Simpson’s, The Genealogist’s Guests
Ghosts are known to come out at midnight; Ann Simpson’s favorite time of the day is 4 AM. I recently read the first book of her three part series titled, “The Genealogist’s Guests”. It is an exciting construction full of nonstop action. When one sees a movie, the climax usually captures our attention with a finale of occurrences. I felt as though the entire book was like the finale portion of a classic film: not a bad thing.
“The Genealogist’s Guests” is, as you may know, about a woman who travels to seek information of her origins. She buys a house built by a man named Bill. He has a family with a history, too. Liz, the genealogist, studies her family’s ancestors with a computer. She then paints their names on her office wall in an amazing way… a large magical tree. Though she might not have known it was magical, her family’s occurrences in their various afterlives can at times be monitored by an intelligible character watching the tree light up or fade.
In the story, Liz’s family has a great many secrets. She uses both 3rd person narrations and informative dialogue to keep attractive flow of the story occurring. I try to do that with my own writing at times. Liz’s ancestors’ secrets commonly involve rape and incest which lead to murder. A demon, Wilbur Savage, casts terribly tormenting spells on Liz’s family for generations due to their unwillingness to be honest with each other. Towards the end of the story, Liz, Bill, and Margaret, a medium (one who sees ghosts) form a business to help other family’s work out their curses. By finding other families’ demons, they act as a team to solve problems successfully.
The end of the book solves the problems presented with Liz’s family. It ends as we, the audience, think it should. In one part, small droplets of tears fall from an apparition to hit the ground; release secretive unresolved conflicts from past scenes; and their solutions turn into beautiful blue violets for others to behold.
I have a few thoughts on the book. Ms. Simpson uses, as mentioned previously, dialogue in an impressive way. Her characters that speak with each other are either human, ghosts, souls, or both and either living or deceased. We know the most important characters, because those have more dialogue. Her descriptions of characters are impressive, because most of what we know of them comes from our own imagination; we do not have to read pages and pages of descriptive paragraphs that would come to us as no surprise. The book may have three or more typos – any independent author can relate to that.
Ms. Simpson’s characters seem very real due to their actions and decisions. She uses Liz as the primary character, a handful of other characters, and then “thousands” of characters as back-up, non-speaking family members or ancestors. I invented a new word for those characters. I called them “therciary” characters. Those non-speaking characters were kept as a third group in my mind as I read the book. In my own writing, I usually map out the characters with a timeline in order to see who says what they do and for how long. Importance can depend on the amount of dialogue characters display – this book would be a great inspiration for a painted story book or adult cartoon in order to fully appreciate its characters, how they interact, and how they do not get mixed up with their various assigned roles.
If you liked the movie “Flat-Liners,” with Kevin Bacon or the television series “Ghost Whisperer,” with Jennifer Love Hewitt, you will enjoy this book. Some topics are adult in nature; Ms. Simpson does not delve into too many lengthy descriptions of wrongdoers’ actions. Her use of questionable language is included within the text, however it is sprinkled minimally in the parts of dialogue towards the end of the book. The book concludes abruptly, however it was a fun read and I recommend it for anyone down for a good ghost story or fresh e-book.
For those of you who have read the book already, I have an interesting observation. Stan was fully willing to talk the the small girl in front of people without speaking to her doll. After he took the life of a grown man, he spoke to the girl’s doll as if she was who he would leave Abigail for. Was he trying to act crazy due to his murderous actions? The character was probably crazy before his bad actions, in my opinion. I did write down a few of my favorite sentence constructions from her book. Not all authors use fragments; I avoid them when possible.
I enjoyed these prose. If you get the entire book, you can see them all. A few of my favorites are as follows:
– pg. 1 – “The light … flickered.”
– pg. 30 – “Liz saw the affection between them … other.”
– pg. 62 – George said, “I’d like to … chores.”
– pg. 62 – “In the home office, … tree.”
– pg. 70 – “Sarah levitated … haunting.”
– pg. 101 – “The air … death.”
– pg. 128 – “Abigail ran … trailed.”
– pg. 140 – “His … Wilbur.”
– pg. 141 – “He enjoyed … accomplished.”
– pg. 154 – “He stood … silent.”
– pg. 178 – “Their soulful eyes … thousands of ancestors … Eddie. (therciary characters)”
– pg. 179 – “There were … light.”
In conclusion, “The Genealogist’s Guests” was a wonderful read. I read it in about three days, found it to be enjoyable. At times, I thought I would lose track of the the characters, whether they were older or younger, important or secondary. I did not though; Ms. Simpson does a good job of using multiple characters without us having to remember too many hard-to-know preliminary setup persons or facts. I liked that the entire story involved what one would enjoy toward the end of a movie; happy reading! I will happily consider, respond, or post any commentary on this text.
Ann Simpsons blog is here. 🙂