Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release: January 6, 2015
The spiral dance.I have no idea what I just read. But I loved it.
The spinning top in her brother's hands.
The carving under the water.
The rope at her neck.
Timeless, beautiful, and haunting, spirals connect the four episodes of this mesmerizing novel from Printz Award winner Marcus Sedgwick. They are there in prehistory, when a girl picks up a charred stick and makes the first written signs; there tens of centuries later, hiding in the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who people call a witch; there in the halls of a Long Island hospital at the beginning of the twentieth century, where a mad poet watches the ocean and knows the horrors it hides; and there in the far future, as an astronaut faces his destiny on the first spaceship sent from earth to colonize another world. Each of the characters in these mysteriously linked stories embarks on a journey of discovery and survival; carried forward through the spiral of time, none will return to the same place.
The Ghosts of Heaven is a masterful, incredibly intelligent book, the kind of book that makes readers' minds race and leaves them feeling smarter than when they started reading. The story raises countless questions, provides a few answers, and creates one of the most thought-provoking pieces of literature I have read in a long time.
What I really love about The Ghosts of Heaven is the way it blends many aspects to create a richly layered tale. The story is not just smart because it features science—focusing on spirals, their incomprehensible endlessness and fascinating ubiquity. It is smart because it blends the science of spirals with history and human emotion. A spiraling Earth connects four stories, all of which contain similar themes: time, love, sanity, creation, and more. And through it all, the characters show that spirals in turn appear in each of these intangible concepts—time, love, sanity, and creation are not linear, but instead ever-rising or ever-falling cycles. Tied together with gorgeous writing that adopts a distinct style in each of the four stories, The Ghosts of Heaven truly has it all.
Best of all, no matter how hard readers try, they will never fully be able to understand the story and its messages. The story is about spirals, the way they connect people and places and times—specifically the four distinct stories captured in this book's pages. But, while readers can pick out the connections between the stories and muse on their implications, no one will ever fully understand the ties between the tales—any more than scientists can understand the universe's obsession with spirals, any more than we can understand how our actions can affect people in the future. The Ghosts of Heaven is so ambiguous, with so many possible interpretations, that even the author himself isn't sure he entirely understands it. Just like anything in real science—and in real life—this epic tale does not have a simple, certain explanation.
I could ramble on about my love for this mind-blowing novel, but it has left me feeling incoherent, confused, and yet somehow a fraction as brilliant as the author. The Ghosts of Heaven was my first Sedgwick novel, but it most certainly will not be my last. Read it when you are in the mood to think; this story is one worth pondering, analyzing, questioning, and obsessing over.