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This wasn't necessarily a bad book, but it wasn't for me. In my opinion, it's an excellent example of a "literary fiction" book being lauded for attempting to do something that genre fiction accomplishes more effectively---this book danced around the edges of an interesting idea but then didn't go anywhere with it. I was genuinely disappointed by how it fell flat emotionally for me. There were lots of minor characters popping up in nonlinear ways that never felt completely justified, and I wasn't engaged enough with the overall concept to care much about what happened to them. After reading reviews, I was hoping for a book in the category of "The Book of Speculation" by Erika Swyler and "Every Anxious Wave" by Mo Daviau. If you're feeling unsatisfied by this book, I'd recommend checking those two out.
...and gets weaker with every passing chapter, ending on, "Well, I guess 3 stars overall because at least I wasn't ever bored."
I was immediately engaged in the story, the questions the novel raises, the tone, and the narrator of the story (Jim)--though the audible narrator was really good too. Right away, tone-wise it "felt" like Sourdough by Robin Sloan or This Was Not the Plan by Christina Alger.
But as it went on I cared less and less what happened to Jim and the other main character, in part because of the flashbacks that inform the ghost story part of the book. These flashbacks seem plunked in at random, and worse are told both in the present tense and past tense. When a story is told in the past tense (this one is), flashbacks in the present tense are extremely distracting. And doing flashbacks in both present and past tense? What was the point of that? Additionally, there is one section of flashbacks that cover the span of 90 years. Oh, here's a paragraph in the 50s, followed by one in the present, here's one in the 70s, here's one in the 50s...and so on. It felt confusing and pointless.
The other reason I became less interested was when Jim and Annie go to find this particular "thing," and think they have indeed found it, I didn't see why they would believe they found it. I read a lot of sci fi, so I know an author can make sense of a concept to the reader, but this author...I'm not really sure if he cared about that. He just cared that his characters found what they were looking for. I would believe they were satisfied with what they found, but it didn't seem to me they found the "thing" they were actually looking for.
You know, sometimes it's a real pain to write without spoilers because you can't really cite examples!