Review – Essex County Vol. 2 Ghost Stories

I decided to read this during a less than interesting football game tonight.  I quickly forgot all about the game and got lost in this book.  The brief synopsis is that this is a story of an old man remembering his life.  The good and the bad.  His happiness and his sadness.  And it is a beautifully told story.  There is a lot of hockey in it, being written by a Canadian and set in Canada.  And I cannot recommend it highly enough.

But, I have to say that you may not be as affected by it as I am.  I say this with tears running down my face.  It is a beautiful and sad story.  A story of love and loss.  Missed opportunities and loneliness.  But it was the little things that got to me that certainly won’t affect you the same as me.  Or maybe they will.  Maybe you have your own memories that this will trigger.

As I said before, I spent every Christmas, Spring Break and Summer of my youth in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, which is in Essex County.  So, I have that part affecting me.  It brings back memories of my Mom and Uncle and Grandmother, all gone.  Even memories my Dad, who hated going up there and rarely did.  As a city kid who grew up in Brooklyn and lived in Chicago, there wasn’t enough to do there for him.  We only started going up there for Christmas and Spring Break after he died.  So, I was probably in a susceptible place just starting the book.

There comes a point in the story where the old man, Lou, is being driven from his farmhouse to an old folks home and his house is fading away in the rear view mirror until it is out of sight.  It brought back memories of Kingsville.  Of leaving for the last time, after my Mom’s funeral, knowing I would never return.  Family discord late in my Mom’s life and events surrounding her funeral really left me with no desire to ever return.  But, I still have all of the memories.  Sneaking down the stairs Christmas morning, hoping the stairs didn’t squeak too much, keeping my dog, Candy, from barking and waking everybody up while I opened my stocking and shook my presents.  Later, taking my girlfriend, Sandi, up to meet my Grandmother and having her fall in love with her as much as I did.  And of cleaning the house out after my Mom had to sell it, remembering that I couldn’t even bear to look at the house when I came back to bury her.

So, now I’m halfway through the book and I’m a wreck.  But I keep going.  Dear lord, does everything go wrong for  Lou.  All of the joys of the first half are just decimated in the second half.  But, it is compelling.  Small touches in the first part are explained further.  The reason he never touched her again.  The reason for his sadness remembering his brother.  All very touching.  But I kept it together.  Until the scene with the hockey team at the end.  I was too fragile at that point to be able to handle that one.  The final page has a lovely image of hope and you know that Lou left us with one last smile.  At least he did for me.

Sorry for unloading far more about myself than I’m sure you ever wanted to know, but there is really no way I could accurately review this book without sharing.  4 stars.  I don’t know if I can handle reading it again, but I probably will.  I know I will be swinging by the store to pick up the 3rd part of the trilogy, The Country Nurse, to read tomorrow.  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it together reading that one.

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