Ghost Tree by author Bobby Curnow, Illustrations Simon Gane
This review will contain spoilers, however, since the book is only about 100 pages long I will not also be writing a separate spoiler free review. It’s okay, a good story is still a good story even if you know what’s going to happen.
Ghost Tree is a short graphic novel about loss, grief, living in the past, and dealing with cultural differences when you claim more than one home. It is also about what happens when you are too busy finding yourself to nurture those around you.
Brandt is a young man who was born in Japan. When he was a child his Grandfather told him to return to a specific spot in the woods next to their family home exactly 10 years after his death.
Brandt makes the return journey to keep that promise and discovers his Grandfather’s ghost is waiting for him by the same tree. He discovers he can not only talk to his Grandfather’s ghost but to all ghosts at this tree as well. Apparently it is a family trait that he was previously unaware of.
He is enjoying spending quality time with his Grandfather as well as attempting to help the many other lost souls he can now form relationships with.
We also find out that back home in America he is having relationship troubles with his wife and he may be using his new ghost whispering talent as an excuse to escape said troubles.
Brandt recognizes one of the ghosts. It is an ex-girlfriend of his from well before he was married. He had no idea that when she disappeared from his life it was because she had passed.
They spend some time reminiscing and longing for a different life. Then the monster arrives.
A monster has been terrorizing the ghosts and a mysterious figure in a mask has been trying to keep him at bay but is becoming too weak.
Brandt’s ex-girlfriend attempts to wear the mask and scare him off but Brandt sees the monster’s true self and acknowledges his need to be heard.
The monster is able to unburden itself to Brandt’s open ears and returns to its original form, an elderly man, before disappearing. Presumably to the afterlife instead of this purgatory.
Brandt helps his Grandfather unburden his soul by telling his still living Grandmother everything he wished he could have said while he was alive. He is also then able to cross over. It’s quite touching.
Brandt takes his newfound clarity with him back to his wife and declares that we will try harder and do better for their relationship.
But it’s too late. She says he fled the country right when she most needed him to stay. She needed him to try then, not now, and now she’s ready to move past their relationship.
The book ends with Brandt solemnly smoking a cigarette alone on his porch.
I absolutely love this bummer ending and I hope there is not a sequel to tell us what happens next. Sometimes stories just don’t have the happy ending. Not all relationships work out. Sometimes you focus on the wrong path and you lose what you were actually after.
This book does a very good job of taking the reader with Brandt on the wrong story. We’re so focused on ghosts and monsters we completely missed the real conflict. We’re too busy fixing everyone else’s problems we miss how to fix our own.
My only complaint is that the book feels rushed. I think the emotions could have hit harder if I knew the characters better.
I definitely recommend this one, it’s a really quick and somber read that anyone is certain to find at least a part of relatable.
4.5/5 ghosts 👻👻👻👻👻
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