Click Here To Purchase Jane Was Here

Author: Sarah Kernochan

Publisher: Grey Swan Press
ISBN: 9780980037722

Most ghost stories involve some un-blithe spirit or saturnine specter agitating in the physical world. Usually, the ghost manifests itself by intervening in the lives of its random, unsuspecting quarry: knocking pictures off the wall, causing stairs to creak, animating a child’s rocking horse. The formula for this kind of spook-’em-up is fairly standard, and almost always concludes with some sort of seer, or medium, intervening in an attempt to quiet the usurping spirit.

But the best ghost stories – and the hardest to pull off – involve hauntings of a different type. In these stories, the agent doing the haunting is connected in some meaningful way to the victims, sometimes derived directly through an earlier incident in their lives (think of Peter Straub’s masterpiece, the titularly-unadorned Ghost Story). These stories are more effective because the stakes are much greater. This narrative line posits the powerfully unsettling idea that the past haunts us all, and that the specters of our youth (or, in some cases, a previous life) continue to swirl about us, shaping our destiny, warping our way through the world.

Such is the dramatic conceit of Jane Was Here, a gripping and well-wrought novel by Sarah Kernochan, an accomplished screenwriter and novelist (Nine and ½ Weeks, Impromptu, What Lies Beneath). In a story that spans centuries and genres – including an impressive middle section that derives from the epistolary novel tradition – Kernochan has crafted a page turner that rises above the stock clichés and standard storyboarding of the traditional thriller.

At the heart of the book is Jane, a young woman who might or might not be mentally unbalanced. The hold she demonstrates over the few people she allows to actually see her is mysterious and compelling. Is Jane merely an alluring siren? A daffy free-spirit whose laconic manner is designed to intrigue? An escapee from a life in another realm, one whose dark contours promise the prospect of danger?

But Jane Was Here is no mere character study. Rather, it’s the anatomizing of a town’s character, an exploration of how places, like people, have personalities that are shaped by what’s gone before. Set in the sullied storybook town of Graynier, a New England picture-postcard berg that’s as modern (meth addicts, yuppie seasonal itinerants) as it is certifiably quaint (a local museum of glass, for goodness sake), the novel brings into focus a number of sharply defined and memorable characters. Kernochan’s writing is controlled, confident, and richly imaginative. She has a keen eye for the quirky and a sure ear for the colorful. It’s a splendidly satisfying read.

The past haunts everyone to some extent, usually in benign and invisible ways, but in Jane Was Here Kernochan reveals what happens when we come face to face with the dark dimensions of erstwhile folly and ferocity. And the genuine terrors of our past make those squeaking stairs seem no more disconcerting than a dripping faucet, a rocking horse’s unattended sway mere child’s play.

Click Here To Purchase Jane Was Here