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A Certain Slant of Light

Review

A Certain Slant of Light

Helen's ghost has haunted different "hosts" for well over 150 years. Since she loves to read, she is especially attracted to the poetic or literary types --- at this moment in time she is haunting Mr. Brown, a high school English teacher who aspires one day to become a writer. She lingers as near as possible, reading over his shoulder, giving him gentle hints with his writing and enjoying his classroom life. Sometimes she grows a little jealous of his other life --- the one he has with his new wife. Sometimes she grows weary that she never seems to pass on as other spirits have done. Helen is herself haunted. A deep grieving guilt holds her:

I couldn't remember my sin, but I knew it was deep. My banishment from heaven was proof of it.

There is a quiet sameness in her life, but all of this changes one day when she realizes that someone can actually see her. Billy, one of Mr. Brown's students, looks right at her. She is both frightened and thrilled. It turns out that the body of Billy has become the host for the ghost of a man named James. In Helen's world, spirits are known as Lights and living beings are Quicks. Thus an astounding journey of four lost souls begins: Billy, Jenny, James and Helen.

The Quick:
Billy --- Drugged out most of the time and trying never to think of the horrible night his drunken father attacked his mother, teenage Billy has lost hope. His emptiness drives him to attempt suicide, and it is then that he becomes the "host" for a young man killed during World War I.

Jenny --- Her parents keep her under strict supervision. Her father rules over her and her mother through his fanatically desperate religion. Jenny has given up trying to read anything other than her bible. She is empty and eventually becomes the "host" for Helen.

The Light:
James --- A soldier during World War I, James sees his friend killed. He has no time to recover from this shock and horror before he is shot. The pain and guilt of those last moments have kept him from moving on in the spirit world. Now he has found Billy and through Billy has found Helen.

Helen --- Only pieces of her life drift back to her from so long ago. She feels a fear of water and remembers something about a dear child. When James finds her and begins to fall in love, he helps her move into the body of Jenny. Now she must fight for Jenny, for James, for a lost child, and for herself...

The relationship between Helen and James is romantic and intense. As they explore who they are in their physical forms, they bring new dimensions to their living hosts, Billy and Jenny. Discovering their pasts, confronting their fears and accepting their fates, they all learn from each other. From the depths of four desperate beings love binds them and eventually releases them to their freedoms.

With some of its complex themes and sexual tensions, A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT is definitely better-suited for high schoolers and adults. Laura Whitcomb has told an intriguing and highly imaginative story. From its beautifully rendered cover art to its sweeping end, this is a book that will haunt you long after you close the final page.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on September 21, 2005

A Certain Slant of Light
by Laura Whitcomb

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Graphia
  • ISBN-10: 061858532X
  • ISBN-13: 9780618585328