I received an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Erin has never been able to disentangle herself from her complicated relationship with Silas. Alternating between friends and lovers, even when she tries to draw a hard line boundary with him, nothing seems to stick. He is the leader of their friendship quartet, always the one pushing the group into more bizarre and sometimes dangerous or illegal situations. Post-university, Erin is torn between the reckless adventures and growing addictions of Silas and the growing pressure to choose a more adult life and career. She breaks her own boundaries once again when Silas leaves rehab once more. But this time, only days later, he turns up dead.
But before Silas died, he seems to have discovered a new drug. Do you want to get haunted? is the question that follows Erin. Does this drug really allow people to connect with the dead who have left them behind? In her grief, Erin agrees to a pill-popping seance to reconnect with Silas but the drug is far more dangerous than she could ever have imagined.
This is a book that seemed to present itself as a ghost story but I read it as a story of addiction. Does Erin really begin to commune with the dead? Is she truly haunted? Or is she in the throes of grief and a growing addiction? I’m not sure it really matters, as far as the story goes, but I think to read this as a story of addiction made it more compelling. Erin desperately misses Silas even while feeling relief that he is no longer around. She wants to escape but is also desperate to reconnect. She’s addicted to Silas and in turn becomes addicted to a drug that might bring her closer to him. Or one that might help her forget all the ways in which her life is crumbling to pieces.
At the same time, Chapman makes great use of setting the story in the city of Richmond, Virginia. As Erin becomes increasingly haunted, she starts to see the dead everywhere, realizing that Richmond is a city filled with ghosts. A historical city where countless people have lived and died horrifically. True, every large city would likely have its share of ghosts but there is something about the setting of a city built with slavery that adds a greater depth to these hauntings. Erin is a product of her own privileged background but her addiction opens her up to become more aware of the backs on which her privilege is built.
There is a lot of unsettling imagery in the book and I’ll admit that I found myself skimming through parts of it to get through the more horror-esque sections. I’m a somewhat squeamish reader so other readers’ reactions may vary but be warned!