Jonathan Carroll: The Ghost in Love (review)

I’ve had this novel on my shelves for a bit more than a year and I’ve been looking forward to reading it. I’ve read about several of Jonathan Carroll’s novels and they all sound amazing. In fact, they sound like I might have found a new favorite author. So this book was the test of this hypothesis – is Jonathan Carroll really as good as he sounds?

From the beginning, I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be when a book starts with a conversation between a ghost and a dog, a conversation taking place while the ghost is cooking a meal for the woman it’s in love with – even though she can never see the meal?

This is a novel about a man who falls on an icy street one day and suffers a fatal blow to the head – only he doesn’t die. This man, Benjamin Gould, is in love with a woman, German Landis. Together they have a dog, Pilot. These – and the ghost, Ling, are our main characters. Even though Ben and German are madly in love and both believe they have found the one, something happens between them and now, they’re are barely on speaking terms. If it wasn’t for Pilot, they would never speak to each other – but they have ‘joined custody’ over Pilot and so, they need to speak and meet. Ben is changed since the accident and he’s trying to find out why and what it is that has happened to him. Turns out, he’s not the only one something has happened to. Something similar happened to a woman named Danielle Voyles. Ben knows this because he somehow enters Danielle’s mind on occasions and experience what she’s experiencing.

But why don’t people die when they suffer accidents that were supposed to kill them? Why is there a ghost around, sort of babysitting Ben? Who is the man that stabs The Angel of Death?

I don’t want to say a lot about the plot since it all connects and since reading it and slowly getting to understand more and more about what has happened, is part of this novel’s main attraction.

There are some amazing parts in this novel. I love that The Angel of Death manifests himself as someone’s finished meal of bacon and eggs. And that all ghosts have Chinese names because a Chinese farmer invented the idea of ghosts three thousands years ago to explain to his grandson what happens to people after they die, and since God thought it was such a useful idea, he had his angels make the concept real and now, all ghosts have Chinese names to honor the inventor. I also love the idea of ofi. Ofi was Ben’s childhood friend’s magical meal only for him. Ofi is ‘/…/ love and magic; it’s a kid’s imagination made real.’ (p. 87). The whole story of Ben and Gina reminds me of my daughter Ronja and her best friend, Kaiser, and the very special bond they have between them.

I loved that this book had so much focus on animals. Of course Pilot is one of the main characters, but Carroll uses animals so well in this book. Dogs can all talk with each other and when a dog needs it, it can summon a guide to help it find it’s way. Dogs can see ghosts and when needed, animals can work together even though they despise each other if one animal formally issue a call for ‘universal peace to overcome chaos’. This happens very rarely and when it does, cats, rats and dogs can help each other out. This also means that all animals can communicate – they are able to speak both with their own species and with all other types of animals. I thought his way of integrating this into the storyline was excellent and I really enjoyed it.

This novel makes you think. It touches on topics like personal identity, identity through time, the ontology of time, life and death and love and what it all means. It has some rather different views on these issues but in the end, it all comes down to behaving decently towards other people and staying true to yourself – rather simply put – as well as realizing that your past is a part of your present and influences the decisions you make on a everyday basis.

What this novel did was to make me want to check out more novels by Jonathan Carroll. This was a good novel, although a bit too short for my taste. I read it over two days and I prefer my novels to last a little longer. But this was a really good short read so Jonathan Carroll is definitely still on my list of potential favorite authors.

  • Title: The Ghost in Love
  • Author: Jonathan Carroll
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 308 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

One thought on “Jonathan Carroll: The Ghost in Love (review)

  1. The topic of spiritual permanence, ghosts or not, has been very prevalent lately. I think this is the second book this side of The Lovely Bones that seems to handle the topic both tastefully and in an intelligent, rich manner. Thanks for the review!

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