Like victims of war and natural disasters, those who suddenly lose a loved one are plunged into an eerie realm over which they have little control. They often feel removed from other people and cast adrift in a storm of contradictory emotions. All the familiar props that have helped them make their way through normal days seem to have disappeared. Grief is an utter aloneness that smashes reason to pieces and opens us up to unexpected emotions and fantasies. Feeling exposed and helpless, many in mourning retreat and try desperately to make sense of things on their own.
All these aspects of grief are powerfully conveyed in this gripping novel by Robert Rosenblum, the author of more than 20 pseudonymous novels. High school teacher Kate Weyland is totally discombobulated when she loses an earring on the morning when she is due to have an important job interview. Because her schedule is off kilter, her husband takes their twin seven-year-old daughters to school. The car they are in is hit by a speeding police vehicle, and they are killed.
Kate, overtaken by feelings of guilt, is completely incapacitated by the raw aches and the reality shifts of her grief. Then an interview with a nurse who was there when one of her daughters died offers an opening out of the fog she is experiencing. The woman claims to have seen the spirit of the girl leave her body.
Kate, desperate to regain her balance and come to some closure with the tragedy, travels to Nantucket Island where a friend has a cottage. There she learns about Gabriel Farr, a local recluse who is said to be "a ghost exterminator." He apparently drove a ghost out of a local B and B. Sensing Kate's expansive expectations about making contact with her husband and daughters, Farr is reluctant to help her, knowing that she could be very disappointed. However, once they begin this journey into the unknown together, they are both surprised by what ensues.
Rosenbaum does a fine job exploring the complex dynamics of grief as they play out in Kate's life. He makes very palpable the yearning we all have to establish some contact with loved ones after they have died. Of course, those available to accompany us on this mysterious journey are sometimes genuine helpers and other times charlatans. Once Kate meets Gabriel she is drawn into the strange circumstances of his past and tries to find out as much as she can about him. In Robert Rosenblum's novel, love is the healing balm that brings meaning in both worlds.