Unfinished Business – Ghosts in Fiction

What’s a more  common symbol for unfinished business in fiction than Ghosts? I really can’t say.

But if you’ve ever read Mark Manson’s non-fiction book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” you’ll find a pretty good reason why Ghosts are one of the most popular “supernaturals” in fiction. Regardless of how they died, the most common theme you equate to ghosts is unfinished business. Why?

It’s as Manson says. We care about too many inconsequential things that the really important things in life are put in the back burner (aka put in the pile of “things to take care of later”). It’s human nature to take things for granted. Just as it is human nature to forget that anyone can die at any time. Just as it is almost inevitable that all human beings experience regret for all the wasted potential.

Hence the continuing classic themes of Ghost fictions.

I just want to note that this is just my opinion. I’m happy to hear if you think otherwise 🙂

Whether the character is the living or the dead, books with ghosts often grapple with the theme of “things I should have done instead.” Hence, this goes hand-in-hand with the great desire to communicate with the other side. Whether this succeeds depends on the book though. Just as whether the characters (living or dead) choose to move on with their lives or afterlives (whether or not they manage to communicate with the living or deceased loved one).

If you like these type of ghost stories (the non-horror kind), then perhaps you might want to take a look at the following books:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Deals with teens who wake up in a forest exactly nine months after their accident. Nick and Allie find out that they are no longer part of the living. But they aren’t exactly at their “final destination” either. They are only able to travel safely in the forest because it is a dead one that “passed over.” And they quickly find out that traveling in non-dead roads, houses, etc earns them a “sinking.” As if their souls are being pulled down to the center of the earth. According to Mary (one of the longest residents of the Everlost), they can stay with her and her group of children. But Allie is reluctant to say the least seeing as the ghosts with Mary seem doomed to repeat the same actions everyday.

Besides, Allie wants to go home and see her family. And it seems that she might have to learn special skills to get there. One of which is skinjacking (aka possession).

This is a very interesting book. I love how creative Neal Shusterman is with a very old theme of Ghosts not yet moving on.

I definitely recommend this for readers who want a fresher twist to the afterlife of ghosts

Nocturne for a Widow by Amanda DeWees

Sybil Ingram is an actress considered to be past her prime (even though she’s only in her mid-30’s). It’s 19th century England though and her acting troupe is not doing well. Sybil decides to accept the wedding proposal from a rich American hotelier. Unfortunately, the wedding is short-lived as the man dies not soon after in debt (due to a partner that took all the money).

Unable to go back to England, Sybil stays at Brooke House. A House that she has to fight with another contender for ownership, Roderick Brooke. To make things worse, something in the house doesn’t seem to want Sybil there. Is it the servants? Or is it the ghost of the Roderick’s mother (who also happens to be her husband’s first wife)?

If you like Gothic romance, this is a book for you. There are definitely spooky things going on in Brooke House. But don’t worry. This is not a horror story. Not really.

Personally, I like belligerent sexual tension. So I like the development of Sybil and Roderick’s relationship

Shadowland: The Mediator by Meg Cabot

Suze is a mediator. Not only can she see and hear ghosts, she can pretty much beat them to a pulp. Basically her modus operandi for “convincing” them to move on. Unfortunately, moving to California puts her in contact with some ghosts she finds hard to “exorcise.”

This is a funny YA book. I wouldn’t call it horror because Suze is tough and is not afraid to hit back (figuratively and literally). So if you like books about high school and teen life with ghosts, this is for you.

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

Aubrey Ellis can see ghosts. Most of them want her help with their unfinished business. Some, however, are just plain evil. As a real estate writer for a local newspaper and at the final stages of divorce, the last thing she wants is another ghost to deal with. But with the appearance of evidence that exonerates a man from a decades-old murder case (the murder of a teenaged girl), Aubrey is assigned to partner with Levi St John, a no-nonsense investigative reporter to cover this case.

Funny thing is, the ghost of the dead girl doesn’t appear to her. But Aubrey becomes more and more interested in finding out what happened to the girl.

This is a novel I hope more people know about. While yes, it does center around a decades old murder mystery, it also involves Aubrey and Levi’s stories as well. Personally, I loved this book because of its ability to make me want to find out who killed the girl and also what happens between Aubrey and Levi

So romance lovers might also want to take a look at this book. I think the mystery and romance is pretty balanced here.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

The main character Cas sort of reminds me of Sam and Dean from the TV series Supernatural. Hunting down ghosts who harm the living is sort of a family business to Cas. But it also means having to move around a lot as these ghosts seem bound in one place or thing. So you have to go to them.

His latest target is the ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood. She’s been haunting a house for decades. Unfortunately (or is that Fortunately), Anna’s a very strong ghost. And thus begins their unconventional relationship.

Ok my bad. This book is a bit on the horror side with Anna having a reputation for murder. And how her death and binding to her house is technically not her fault. She was murdered young just as she was about to do something with her life. And she finds herself unable to move on to the next plane of existence.

Yeah there is graphic violence. But my main draw to this book is the enemies-to-lovers trope going on here.

And if you’re more on the Supernatural path rather than on the Ghost Whispherer path of dealing with ghosts, you would probably prefer this to the other selections

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A girl is raped and murdered by the neighbor. The reader knows this at the start of the story because the book is being narrated by the dead girl. This follows what happens after, especially how her death affected her family.

I read this book more than ten years ago. And I loved it more for how original it sounded. The story being told from the point of view of the murdered girl.

This reads more like a Slice of Life fiction with afterlife elements. So while I didn’t like how it ended, it was an experience to read this book


If you want to purchase these books, here are some links to Amazon

Special Note: Here is also a link to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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