Reviewed by Katie Schneider
In Creosote, Nev., Maggie Foltz serves up drinks in a run-down casino. She's 55, wary of relationships and surrounded by gamblers. She gambles a bit here and there herself, using tip money and drinks to try to ease a certain restlessness she has. She makes friends with Sarah Martin, who has long black hair and moves with the grace of a dancer. Sarah Martin, it turns out, is Native American, down on her luck and in need of a job. In the perpetual artificial light of the casino, the two women bond.
Until someone murders Sarah.
Going Through Ghosts by Mary Sojourner isn't about Sarah when she's alive as much as what happens to her and Maggie after she's dead. Because of her violent death, Sarah, rather than being able to pass on to the next world, is stuck in this one. Even with the counsel of one of her Willow tribe elders, she has yet to learn everything she needs to know. Maggie, in turn, has ample reason to leave Creosote. Not only has her boyfriend taken off, but she's afraid Sarah's killer may come after her. Their journey takes them both on a path of discovery, taking Sarah back to her reservation and teaching Maggie how to reconcile present and past.
Common threads weave their way through the novel. Casinos are one, places where people sit in sweats and drink cocktails and hope for a payoff based on nothing much. They're where Maggie works, but they're also where she and others troll for love, among the chain-smokers and the blue-haired ladies. Vietnam is another. Maggie's former husband was a veteran. Her new lover is, too, which explains one reason he has "Runner" as a nickname and a bad case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The wounds of the war are lived out in the present, out on Runner's quiet property surrounded by diamond cholla, blue yucca and "wine-red barrel cactus," and up in the indigo mountains of Sarah's people.
Going Through Ghosts is a quiet book. It moves slowly and at an even pace, alternating between multiple points of view. The payoff for Ghosts comes at the end, after the reels have spun, the lights have lowered and almost everybody has gone home. When it does, it's quiet, too, two people sliding in together, in such a way that it isn't a gamble anymore, but a sure thing.
Books mentioned in this post