The Invention of Ghosts by Gwendolyn Kiste
Nightscape Press (2020)
64 pages; $30 limited edition
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
Gwendolyn Kiste is a rare kind of speculative writer: the kind able to craft highly metaphorical and allegorical tales which also vibrate with a resonance that cuts close to the bone and pierces the heart. As a reader, I’ve always needed to feel something in response to a work of fiction. From fun, escapist thrillers to “high brow literary horror,” if I don’t feel something for the characters and about their situations, the story bounces right off me, no matter how finely written it is.
If a story is too allegorical, or two metaphorical, those emotions just aren’t engaged. And often, when I’m reading fiction which moves primarily on metaphorical levels, I can say with all honesty that while I admire said work, I didn’t really enjoy it. That’s never a problem with a Gwendolyn Kiste story. Her short story collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe features stories which pack both an allegorical and emotional punch, and her novella Pretty Marys All in a Row is just about as heart-breaking as it gets. That’s because in addition to a keen sense of metaphor and allegory, Kiste writes with a stunning clarity, which adds remarkable verisimilitude to her work.
I expected no less of The Invention of Ghosts, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is a stunning metaphor for how we leave behind—either accidentally, or purposefully—people whom we care about, and a warning against hiding away from the world. It’s also a very clearly written, tangible supernatural story about magic and hauntings. It’s a metaphor for that longing many of us feel to “forget” where we came from so we can define ourselves on our own terms, as Everly tries to recapture an entire lifetime lost to her, so she can remember the truth about her and her best friend.
This is a limited edition, so there’s not many copies left, so act soon, and get this. Highly recommended.