Review: The Other Side of Dark

From the other side of dark they come, the ghosts of the violently dead. George Perkins, a mentally challenged boy who has been put in charge of a bloodsoaked treasure.  Katie Mullens’s father who died in the Middle East.  And the Others…

Law Walker, son of a famous African American professor, had a crush on Katie before she went crazy.  Before her mother died.  She was always a talented artist, but now her drawings have gone crazy too.  They’re dark, they’re bloody—and they’re real.  Katie draws what she sees.  Dead people. Ghosts.

Now Katie needs Law to help the visions stop.  And Law wants to help her. So what if his dad doesn’t want him dating a white girl?  But Law needs Katie too, to find out what George knows about the treasure … and what Katie is going to see will be much bigger, much more shocking than anyone expected.

This powerhouse novel is about ugly histories, brave and desperate choices, and learning to see people—dead and alive—for who they really are.–From www.sarahsmith.com

The most interesting ghosts have something to teach us about the past. Sarah Smith’s The Other Side of Dark is a ghost story and a human story with a historical twist. I walked into this book knowing virtually nothing about it and was pleasantly surprised by how much was packed inside. This is an under-buzzed title, but I was thankful for that because I got to uncover all of its secrets on my own. Smith’s book ties in death, family problems, racial issues, architecture, coming of age, and romance with an impressive fluidity, all while keeping you in suspense about the history and future of a famous mansion.

Katie has lost her mother and father. While she has a home with her stepfather, she spends much of her time stuck in the past, talking to ghosts and drawing pictures of them. She doesn’t think the ghosts are real, and while others say Katie is crazy, she sometimes worries about her own sanity, too. It turns out, though, that the ghosts are far more real than Katie might want to believe, and they have something to tell her.

Law is the son of a famous reparations scholar. He has grown up hearing about what white people owe the blacks for slavery. While Law respects his father, he also has a hard time living under his formidable shadow. Law’s mother studies historical architecture, a field which Law’s father is not particularly proud of and which Law wants to study himself. Law is torn between his parents, expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, but more interested in those of his mother. When Law has to compete for the Walker Prize, everybody expects him to talk about reparations, but he wants to talk about architecture instead. This becomes especially poignant for him when he finds out that Pinebrook, an important historical mansion, is going to be torn down. Law and his mother want to save it, while Law’s father wants it gone–the mansion is a painful reminder of the slave history that goes along with it.

When Katie begins talking to George, the ghost of a man who died at Pinebrook, she starts learning more about the building’s history. Law, who used to have a crush on Katie, rekindles his connection with her in hopes of sharing her discoveries about Pinebrook’s past. As the two team up to save the building, they both get more involved than they bargained for. The dark history of Pinebrook and the slave owners and ghosts within it will test their beliefs about race and the responsibilities of both whites and blacks in the post-slavery era. It also forces them to confront many painful issues with their families, themselves, and each other.

The Other Side of the Dark may have originally appealed to me because of its gorgeous cover (I’m not above falling for pretty things), but its contents were much deeper and more enriching than I ever expected. I really enjoyed this book and I hope that it will get the attention it deserves when it is released in a couple weeks.

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