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The Ghost Road: 02/05/19

The Ghost Road

The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter opens with a shipwreck. It opens with a girl calling to her mother and expecting to drown. This nightmare will play a significant role in the novel.

Ruth has been sent to her aunt's house while her father and her stepmother go on their honeymoon. Ruth is from Toronto which is warmer and drier in the summer. Ruth isn't prepared for the days of fog and rain.

Ruth's aunt lives in Buckle Newfoundland which is described as being near St. John's (if anything is near anything else on Newfoundland). The name brings to mind Blueberry Buckle.

I making a big deal about the location because it is as much a character as Ruth and her family are. This small town is steeped in history, still holding on to the memory of three founding families. Ruth happens to related to all of them.

Ruth learns her family history through her time with her cousin, Ruby. Ruby has grown up around the lore and legends. She knows the basics of the family history and the town history. Most importantly she knows about the family curse.

The way Ruth and Ruby unravel the nature of the family curse is built on the three ingredients of the North American road narrative spectrum. By understanding the spectrum, some of the surprises in this fantasy aren't so surprising.

The first question in the road narrative is who is the traveler. The obvious answer is Ruth. As she is first presented, separated from her father and future step mother, the first assumption is that she is an orphan (FF). Except, she has been sent to her extended family and has been paired with her cousin. That would put her farther down the list at family (33). It is the curse and the uncanny number of twins her her family as well as her physical similarities to Ruby that aligns the two girls as siblings (CC).

Next is the destination. The curse and the lore are tied up with a town that was drowned (with only two survivors) during a storm surge. Now that town, lost and replaced by the wilderness, could be the wildlands (99). At the far extreme, the place could be a no-place (utopia) as it no longer exists (FF). But the way to the former town can be mapped even though the starting point is a fictional town. It's described as being a four hour walk to a place in a valley near a hidden cove. Four hours of walking is roughly twelve miles. It would still most likely be along the coast in the same area of Newfoundland as St John's. But there is the curse and the ghosts and visions Ruth is having where she essentially relives pieces of the lives of the women who came before her. That disconnect in time puts the location as uhoria (CC).

Finally there is the route. That is given in the title: "the ghost road." There was, once upon a time, a road between Buckle and the original town. Though it has been lost to time and overgrown, women with the sight can see it. Since the road at its time of use was an actual road, one that could be walked, or horses ridden over, it was a well enough established to count as a Blue Highway (33).

Put all together, this middle grade fantasy set in Newfoundland in the late 1970s is a CCCC33 or siblings who travel to uhoria via a Blue Highway.

Five stars

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