Book Review: A Certain Slant of Light

A Certain Slant of Light

Laura Whitcomb


288 pages

My very first book of 2010.  That is a lot of pressure! So obviously the question is . . . did it live up to my expectations.  In short–yes.  A Certain Slant of Light is the story of a ghost named Helen.  She is stuck in a sort of purgatory, meaning that she is not in heaven nor in hell.  Instead, she is still present on earth but she has to have a human host.  At the point the novel begins, she is on her fifth host, a Mr Brown.  As with her other hosts, Mr Brown seems to be aware that there is some sort of a presence, but beyond that there is no recognition of Helen.  She just follows him daily while he goes about his work as a high school English teacher.  Everything changes one day in class when a young man actually notices her.  Helen is taken aback–she is fearful because in the century since she’s died, no one has actually realized her presence.  At the same time, she is hopeful because being so solitary is a lonely way to be.

It turns out that James–who is known as Billy–has been dead for quite awhile too.  He was haunting a park until one day he was given the opportunity to snatch the body of Billy, a drug addict.  Now he is somewhat human, given that he is living Billy’s life.  James and Helen fall in love and begin looking for a body for Helen to inhabit.  Apparently, occasionally souls will leave their own body for whatever reason.  Helen is able to take the body of Jenny.  Happily ever after, right?  Well, unfortunately James and Helen are forced to live the lives of Billy and Jenny.  Billy, as mentioned before, is a drug addict.  His mother is in a vegetative state and he lives in squalor with his older brother Mitch.  Jenny lives with her two parents in a very uptight, religious home.  Both scenarios end up having their downfalls and Helen and James begin questioning their decision to inhabit their respective bodies.

The book started off a bit slow for me.  For the first few chapters I was debating whether or not I should even continue with the book.  Like I said before, I am kind of burnt out on YA fiction at the moment, and I wasn’t sure whether this book could draw me out of my funk.  Before I knew it though, I was completely involved in the story.  By the end, with the bathtub scene (which is depicted on the cover) I was holding my breath to see what would happen.  I wouldn’t say I understood where Helen and James were coming from–their love affair seemed a bit forced to me.  I guess when you’ve been alone for so long though, you’re bound to latch onto the first person that comes along.  Regarless, the story was so good that it didn’t seem to matter that I was unable to connect with either of the main characters.  I would definitely recommend this book–it would be a great choice for the RIP challenge this fall!

Other Reviews:

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Bookgirl’s Nightstand

The Biblio Blogazine

A Life in Books

I borrowed this book from my local library


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