“Book Review: Ghosts of You”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Murdered women, powerful prose
Cathy Ulrich is a puppeteer with the short story craft. She pulls strings on plot points and steers readers away from the sensationalism in murder mysteries toward a place where a murder tells more than a single story.
We begin each new short piece with the sentence, “The thing about being the murdered [woman] is you set the plot in motion.” As you might have guessed, the word “woman” is substituted with the nickname that you might find as the headline on your local newspaper: “The Murdered Lover,” “The Murdered Homecoming Queen.” But what sets these stories apart is that they don’t mention the killer or the investigation; they tell stories of varying themes like the memories you leave behind and the memories they make up about you after you’re gone. It’s a fascinating and unique twist to the literary crime genre.
Since each story is in the second person (“you”), readers witness the aftermath of your death just like these women, with no control over what happens. That means you could be experiencing the feeling of being missed after your death, of being replaced, of being longed-for.
The prose is quick and accessible. The sentences keep you bouncy with lyricism, often repeating words with lasting effect and keeping us tied tightly to the impact of each murdered woman. Each story might cover a long period of time around your death or a short period, but either way, you can rest assured that you’ll understand these people before they go, their unique quirks, their things that help them linger.
“Your partner will be haunted by the ghost of you, caught in glimpses on reflective surfaces, flat of toaster in the morning, frost scrapes on car windshield, sun glare on dark glasses.”– from “Being the Murdered Detective”
In “Being the Murdered Muse,” we watch as you become the undone sculpture your artist has been working on. We watch as the artist gets praised for your half-completeness, of the beauty of his idea. Both this story and “Being the Murdered Detective” are elevated favorites for me. I not only have the opportunity to read the crime-style detective story, but I also get to play close attention to his character, discover his life without you and trying to figure out whether he love you or if he’s sick with the grief of losing you.
Ghosts of You comes at you quickly. With many stories lasting fewer than three pages, you’ll be able to get in and get out with a truly fulfilling experience. For fans of literary fiction and murder mysteries, you’ve met your match with this book.
Publisher: Okay Donkey Press
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