I finished reading Sonia Gensler’s THE REVENANT last night and closed it with a sigh. You know the feeling of finishing a book that’s just so good you worry that you won’t find another one you love as much for a long time? It’s one of those books, and while I couldn’t put it down to make it last longer, I was so sad to be finished.
THE REVENANT is a delicious blend of historical fiction, mystery, and ghost story set at a Cherokee boarding school near the turn of the century. When 17-year-old Willemina Hammond arrives to take a teaching position, it’s under false pretenses, but her phony identity soon becomes the least of her concerns when she’s assigned to the bedroom of a former student who might have been murdered. The students are convinced her ghost haunts the school, and it seems to be growing ever more violent. As she struggles to carry out her role as teacher and gain the respect of her students, Willie is pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery until her very life is at stake.
There is so much to love in this story – characters who are complex and multi-faceted, especially the main character, Willie, who is at once strong, spirited, and flawed. Her coming-of-age through the trials of this ghost story/mystery is believable and poignant, and at the same time, the story sacrifices nothing in terms of its harrowing plot. I was turning pages as fast as I could at one point, then found myself going back to appreciate the gorgeous prose once I’d found out what happened.
The writing in this book reminds me of the very best of Jennifer Donnelly’s work – stunning and seemingly effortless. In fact, I was bewildered when my cell phone rang while I was reading yesterday. It took me a minute to remember that I wasn’t actually curled up in the library of a 19th century boarding school. I took the book with me when I went to rescue my husband, whose car had died, just in case there were any red lights along the way.
Teachers, give this one to Donnelly fans, for sure, but I think it will also appeal to your supernatural romance readers and will be a perfect transition for those who have read their fill of Twlight-esque titles and are looking for something more.
You won’t want to miss this book – due out in June from Knopf.