Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Uninvited by Cat Winters

I admit, I had seen a ghost or two. ~ Opening of The Uninvited


The Uninvited by Cat Winters
William Morrow, 2015
Fiction; 343 pgs

The women in Ivy Rowan's family have long been gifted with being able to see the dead. The ghosts are heralds of death, warning the women that someone they know has or soon will die. Ivy has long viewed her gift as a curse. One evening in October of 1918, Ivy sees the ghost of her grandmother, the same night her father and brother have beaten and killed a German businessman in town.

At that time in American history, as the Great War rages, hostilities are high against all people and things German. The death of the German is not looked into too closely--he must have been deserving after all. Perhaps he didn't donate enough to the War cause or failed to turn his back on his own heritage completely. In another town, a German had been hung without trial or good cause, and the jury acquitted the mob who murdered him--believing they had done their patriotic duty.

As anti-German sentiment flourishes, so does the Spanish Influenza, a deadly virus which has taken the lives of many. Ivy caught the bug early on and finally feels herself coming around when her father and brother burst into the house with the news of the German's death. Ivy cannot take it anymore: the drunkenness of her father, the influence of her father on her young brother, and the violence. And so she sets off on her own at the age of twenty-five to make a life for herself.

Ivy has been a recluse for the past several years, rarely venturing out of her house. She has made a living giving piano lessons to area children. Ivy has neglected her childhood friendships and really has no one, outside of her mother. Still, she is determined to do what she must. The feeling and need to make restitution to the murdered German's brother is strong, and that is how, one evening, she finds herself at Daniel's doorstep, unsure what to say and how to act.

I went into The Uninvited with high hopes, I admit. The description lured me in immediately. I wanted to know more about this woman who could see ghosts, about the time period she lived in and everything else the story might hold for me. I was swept into the story right away and curious about Ivy. She's very naive in her own way, but also very smart. Even despite her fears, she takes what comes her way and makes the most of it. There was instance in which I questioned Ivy's judgement, but given the times and the sentiment of living in the moment, I suppose it wasn't that farfetched. 

The novel has a host of interesting characters. There is May, a war widow, who has had her share of people looking down on her because she is beautiful and from somewhere else. There are the Red Cross women, Addie and Nella, who cannot drive an ambulance to save their lives, but who are determined to help victims suffering from the Spanish Influenza. Then Lucas whose loyalty to the American Protective League is unwavering, always with an eye out for those who might be unpatriotic. There are the ghosts, of course, relatives of Ivy's, including her brother, Billy, who lost his life in the War. There are the folk in the club, drinking despite the Prohibition, playing jazz and dancing as they try to forget the world outside. It is hard not to be caught up in the times, feel the tension and helplessness, and yet also taking joy in the moment.

I really liked Daniel, the brother of the German furniture store owner, the more I got to know him. He holds his secrets close to his vest. He has had a difficult time of it, not just in the United States, but in his home country of Germany as well. Daniel is full of anger, especially towards Ivy's family. And yet he has a definite soft spot for Ivy herself.

While everything about this novel is fiction, from the setting to the characters and their stories, there is truth in the history. Cat Winters does a good job of capturing the mood and desperateness of the times, including the horrors of war, the effects of fear and ignorance. I was really drawn into the time period and into the lives of the characters the author has created. I especially loved how everything came together in the end.

The Uninvited is not just a ghost story, but it is also one about redemption and hope. It is about missed opportunities and love found. As well as about finding one's way and letting go of the past. Was The Uninvited everything I hoped it would be? Yes and No. It wasn't, in the end, quite what I expected, but that was okay. In many ways, it was even better.

To learn more about author Cat Winters and her work, please visit the author's website.



Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

13 comments:

  1. This sounds perfect for this time of year.

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    1. Kathy - I thought so! I love a good ghost story. :-)

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  2. I saw this one this morning on the New Books shelf at the library. Almost picked it up. Should have. LOL

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    1. Kay - I hope you will try it if you see it at the library again! I'd like to get your take on it.

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  3. It does sound perfect for the time of year! Spooky things are even more so when autumn comes.

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    1. Jenclair - The ghosts aren't as big a part of the story until the later half of the novel, which surprised me. I think this is a safe ghost story for those who don't like scary stories. :-)

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  4. I've seen this book around but didn't know what it is about. Thanks for your lovely review, Wendy! Now will have to put this onto my wishlist. :)

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    1. Melody - There is a lot I can't say about this one, and so I feel like my review doesn't do it justice. I think you would like this, Melody.

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  5. I love the sound of this book. I don't think I would have picked it at random but your review makes me want to read it right away.

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    1. Athira - I think it was the cover that initially sold me on this book. I am glad I read it. :-)

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  6. The Uninvited sounds like a worthwhile read and the time period sounds interesting as well. Fantastic review as always :)

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    1. Naida - It was interesting. I am glad I read it. And thank you!

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  7. I love the sound of this one and want to read it myself! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it more than you expected to. Great review!

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