Ghosts of our Past

Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Summary from NetGalley:

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts.

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works.

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.

ARC provided by HarperCollins Children’s Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

I really enjoyed this middle grade ghost story with great characters and a very creepy setting. This is also historical fiction set in the 1920’s during the great migration of African Americans from the south to the north looking for a better life for themselves. The history of that time period is deftly woven into the story in such a way that it doesn’t at all feel like a history lesson. The added layer of the ghosts also added a nice touch to the story on a whole.

Ophelia was a delightful young lady who struggles with understanding her newly discovered power of being able to see and talk to ghosts. She is also struggling with her new circumstances in life, not being able to go to school, but needing to help her mother by working with her as a maid. She is a very perceptive girl and notices everything around her. Including how differently people are treated according to their skin color. She also struggles with Mrs. Caruthers, the mean old lady that she is tasked to take care of. Ophie doesn’t like her very much and has to work to be nice to her. Although Ophie sometimes acts older than she is, she is still a child and wants to do things that children do, like sneak away and find a spot for themselves. I really liked that she wasn’t necessarily afraid of the ghosts she encountered, but was timid about them at first. But once she got used to her powers she realized that she could help the ghosts too.

Ophie’s Aunt Rose was the most important adult character that Ophie had contact with. Aunt Rose could also see ghosts and she is the one who teaches Ophie how to deal with them and help them. I really liked their relationship and would have liked to see maybe just a tiny bit more of it. Mrs. Caruthers was also a good character even though she was mean and spiteful to Ophie most of the time. She was a nice counterpoint to many of the other adults in Ophie’s life.

I really liked that there wasn’t just one ghost haunting the mansion, but many that came from different time periods. Clara, was an interesting ghost that ended up being one that you felt sorry for even though she was also pretty scary by the end.

The writing was really good and I loved that the mansion was creepy, but not to much. I also really liked that there were some chapters from the perspectives of inanimate things, like the train and the mansion. Those were some of my favorite parts of the story. They really helped to put some of the history into perspective.

This really was a delightfully thrilling story that had ghosts and history and social justice all woven together in a masterful way. This is one that I highly recommend you read and then give to a child in middle school to read as well. I don’t think this is going to be a series, but I would love to see another book featuring Ophie and her ghosts.

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