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The Reading Jackalope

The Other Side of Dark - Sarah Smith

I really, really liked this book. It's the perfect combination of haunting and thought provoking. However I have some minor quibbles, and I can't decide if they're enough to bring it down to four stars or not.

The metaphor the book uses of ghosts to help explain modern race issues is both surprising and obvious. Of course America is haunted by the ghosts of slavery and racial tensions, but for some reason it's never been laid out quite so obviously to me before. So to have Katie literally haunted by ghosts, including former slaves, just makes sense.

So now we get to my quibbles. I love that the book addresses racial issues in the US, and I think it does a fairly decent job, but I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions it draws. The book seems to end with the conclusion that if we simply name the issue, recognize it, then it will suffice. The ghosts, in particular the slave ghosts, stop haunting Katie once she names them. But I don't think it's sufficient, it's the start not the end game. And if we think that naming the issue, recognizing the issue, is the end game then we end up believing the problem is solved once it is named. And yet we've been calling out racism for decades and it's still not solved. And then there's the troubling character of Law's father. Law's father is an angry black man, and his anger is so often justified, but the book leans away from that reaction and indicates through the story that such anger is not productive. I don't know how I feel about a white author taking that standpoint. On the other hand, Law's father isn't vilified for his anger.