The Ghost of You is an English translation of a Spanish book La ciudad donde no estás. I was drawn to this book originally by the title. It has a haunting feel to it. It is the perfect title for this collection of short stories from Peruvian-American academic and writer Margarita Saona. While reading these stories, I was reminded of the beautiful works of the Greek scholars that long ago wrote of philosophical ideas. Writings that truly transcended the individual and speak to a higher human form. This higher level of communication is spoken to an individual (the reader) but encompasses all individuals. Personal but yet a collective. As in the works of the old masters, Saona’s stories are not identifiable as being about anyone but are about everyone. As a collective, we can relate to loss and emptiness, as a shared experience – but also as a truly individual experience as well.
“Saona’s stories are not identifiable as being about anyone, but are about everyone.”
The first story in the collection is only two sentences, beginning with “…small word artifacts to fill the brief space where you are not.” Saona’s stories take place in any city, anywhere. In Fallen Angels, we encounter an older person’s anger at the aging process. Sorceress Apprentice speaks of the wind “I have conjured the wind”. There is a storm coming with that wind, in the home, and nothing can tame it. The Girl Who Ate Time is about a clock-eating child who is in perfect health, but the doctor listens to her heart and hears something out of the ordinary. This story about time moving on is a common theme, but in Saona’s hands, she weaves it into an incredible story, in only a sparse page and a half! None of the stories are more than a couple of pages, and some are only a line or two. But the thoughtfulness and introspection therein are possibly the starkest, yet touching, I have ever encountered. I have only mentioned a few of the stories within this stunning collection, but every one of the narratives became a part of me as soon as I read it.
The Ghost of You is a collection about loss – loss of time, of circumstances, of wishes, and of people, some of whom we may not have ever met, but we know intimately. When I began reading, it felt as if I was entering the story by way of a large door. The story was open, with lots of room. As I read, I realized Saona had walked me through the story, but the space had been strategically reduced. By the end, I was squeezing through the eye of a needle. The space that had seemed so large at the beginning of the story had smoothly and completely closed me in by the ending. The stories were so tightly woven that I had to release the breath I’d been holding. Margarita Saona is a masterful creator of story. Her use of language and form is unique, as is her skill with the application of sparse wording, which leads to a tremendous impact being felt by her reader.
The collection of stories in The Ghost of You touched me in ways I would never have imagined. Often, I finished a story only to go back and reread the beginning of the tale. It is then that I pondered if the story I just read is real or imagined, or are these the images of a dream.
The beauty in The Ghost of You is an experience in storytelling that one will not soon forget. It is a haunting that is done so gloriously that I realized at its end I was witness to the work of a modern master. This is a collection I will be grateful to return to and reread. And when I do, I know that the haunting will begin again – with a welcome invitation – and I will recognize that the spirit of these stories has never left me. Pick up a copy of The Ghost of You by Margarita Saona and get prepared for your mind and heart to house this accomplished work long after you close the back cover.
About the Author
Margarita Saona teaches Latin American literature and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was born in Peru and studied linguistics and literature at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru. She received a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Columbia University in New York. She is currently working two books, a short essay entittled De monstruos y cyborgs and Corazón en trance, a memoir about her experience of heart transplantation.
- Publisher : Laberinto Press (March 31 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 135 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1777085926
- ISBN-13 : 978-1777085926
Carrie Stanton has a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary. She is the author of The Jewel and Beast Bot, and picture books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Gardener. Carrie loves to write stories that grow wings and transport readers everywhere. She reads and enjoys stories from every genre.