Talking to the Dead


Reading about communication from the beyond may seem more like October fare, but returning spirits aren’t always spooky and scary. Communing with the dead, either by the presence of spirits or through amazingly life-like computer generations can be funny or moving, too.

In Goodbye for Now, Laurie Frankel’s novel of love and algorithms, Sam Elling is a software engineer whose system for finding your soul mate is so effective that it cost him his job when the online dating site that employed him decided that they make more money off NOT making matches. When his true love’s grandmother dies and he is looking for a way to help her, Sam tweaks his algorithm to create a digital projection that can email and video chat a reasonable facsimile of the dead, provided they were active enough online in life. Populating her Seattle with memorable characters (both living and dead), Frankel touches on the ethics of reanimating the dead and the process of grieving while unwinding the sweet romance of Sam and Meredith. (Also available as an audiobook)

On a more supernatural and silly note, Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl is the spirit of Sadie, recently deceased, but currently appearing to her previously uninterested great-niece Lara in her most glorious flapper incarnation. Visible and audible only to Lara, Sadie is insistent that Lara help her recover the dragonfly necklace that had been her prize possession for more than 75 years. Sadie’s presence is less a haunting than a hostile take-over, and with Sadie as her very opinionated and focused guide, Lara takes big chances at work and in love while learning more about her family and the surprising history of the amazing girl who grew up to be Great-Aunt Sadie in the nursing home. (Also available in Large Print, as an audiobook, and as an eBook)
An obvious predecessor to Twenties Girl is the 1926 classic ghost story Topper by Thorne Smith. When Cosmo Topper buys a used car, he gets its previous owners, too:  The mischievous young couple who met their deaths in that very car. The late George and Marion Kerby make it their mission to save Comso from his boring life, leading him down a gin-soaked path of hijinks. (Topper was also made into a film and a television series)

[Cover]If shenanigans from beyond the grave are too far out there for you, Extra Large Medium by Helen Slavin offers spirits with more mundane concerns. While the dead appear to Annie Colville on a regular basis (wearing the tell-tale chocolate brown), her husband, missing almost seven years, has never once sought her out. While she waits for him to turn up (either way), she decides to help those souls who seek her out, and is surprised at their small and often trivial concerns.

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