Title: The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead
Author: Paul Elwork
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from Library Thing
First line: The girl who would speak for the dead stood alone on the cobblestone drive after the rain.
In the aftermath of World War I, a thirteen-year-old girl discovers a peculiar talent. When Emily cracks a bone in her ankle, the popping sound appears to come from midair. She reveals her discovery to Michael, her twin brother, and the two hatch a scheme to convince the neighborhood kids that the mysterious knocking comes from the afterlife. In a time when so many families – including her own – have lost someone, people are ripe to believe in “spirit knocking.” Emily’s talent is soon discovered by the adults in town – and things go far beyond either Emily or Michael could have imagined.
I am faced, once again, with trying to explain why I didn’t love a book that I found exceptionally well-written. It seems that it is harder for me to write reviews on books that I feel middling about; it’s easier to explain why I really dislike a book or why I simply adored it. And again, it comes down to whether or not I can emotionally connect with the story or anyone in it. I felt detached from the characters – almost as if I was watching their story from afar. I wanted to become lost in the story, but it didn’t have that effect on me.
In some ways, the house at Ravenswood is the main character of the book, as the chapters involving Michael and Emily are interspersed with scenes that occurred in the house’s past. These scenes weren’t given chronologically, however, and so I found them disorienting.
I did find it fascinating how many of the adults were willing to believe that Emily truly had a talent for spirit knocking, especially as it was a real craze that occurred around that time. I also found the dynamic between the twins and their mother intriguing, as I can’t imagine having so little knowledge of what my children were doing with their free time.
The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead is Paul Elwork’s first novel, and while I didn’t love it, I enjoyed his writing style enough to watch for his next one.