What I’m Reading: The Ghost Keeper

From the book jacket:

In the years between the two world wars, Josef Tobak builds a quiet life around his friendships, his beloved wife, Anna, and his devotion to the old Jewish cemeteries of Vienna. Then comes the Anschluss in 1938, and Josef’s world is uprooted. His health disintegrates. His wife and child are forced to flee to China. His closest gentile friend joins the Nazi Party—and yet helps Josef escape to America.

When the war ends, Josef returns to Vienna with his family and tries to make sense of what remains, including his former Nazi friend who, he discovers, protected Josef’s young female cousin throughout the war. 

Back among his cemeteries in Austria’s war-shattered capital, Josef finds himself beset by secrets, darkness and outward righteousness marred by private cruelty. As the truth is unearthed, Josef’s care for the dead takes on new meaning while he confronts his own role in healing both his devastated community and his deepest wounds.

The Ghost Keeper is a story about the terrible choices we make to survive and the powerful connections to communities and friends that define us. Here is a finely accomplished novel that introduces an exciting new voice to our literary landscape.

My review:

I picked up The Ghost Keeper on a bit of a whim. I had a bit of a hard time following the narration at first but once the story really kicked off and I got used to the weaving in and out of the timeline, it was a fairly captivating read.

The Ghost Keeper demonstrates how relationships can outlast a war but at the same time, change so greatly. As we read about Josef and his friend Friedrich we are shown how sometimes our deepest, darkest secrets can eat away at us no matter what we do to try and make up for them.

Morrill uses some beautiful poetry throughout this work, but I wish there was a little bit more to it aside from the various letter back and forth between the characters. If Friedrich’s character was a bit more developed, even, I would’ve been satisfied. Why join the Nazi party but yet, keep his friends safe? What was his reasoning?

After being left with a feeling of underdevelopment, I thought The Ghost Keeper was good, but not quite good enough.

My rating: ★★★½/5 stars