Monday, August 21, 2006

Marly's Ghost

Book: Marly's Ghost
Author: David Levithin
Published: 2005

“Marly was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatsoever about that.” And poor Ben, indeed, doesn’t have any doubt that his adored girlfriend is dead. How can there be, when just waking up each morning is a reminder that he’s alive and she’s not?

As his grief pulls him further and further under, Ben decides that love is a crock, a sham, something that only brings pain. It’s going to be the new mission of his life to let everyone know. On Valentine’s Eve, though, he’s visited by a ghost . . . Marly’s ghost, who is chained to Earth by the force of Ben’s anguish. She tells him that he will be visited by three more ghosts who will show him the importance of love in his life . . . and so begins the familiar story, but with a highly original twist.

I picked this book up because I’d heard good things about Levithin’s Boy Meets Boy, and when I realized it was a reworking of A Christmas Carol, which is an old favorite (see my post on it last December), I decided to check it out. I ended up reading it in one morning, and cried like a baby through the whole last stanza.

Levithin has taken the original Christmas story and closely reworked it into a Valentine’s Day story that addresses not only romantic love, but the love between friends as well. At times, the text becomes a virtual copy of Dickens’ classic (see, for instance, Ben’s self-description, or the scene where Marly’s ghost first appears to him) and at others, the language veers sharply away from the original. However, Levithin always hews very closely to the spirit of the original (even occasionally the Victorian tendency towards melodrama), in showing the interconnectedness between love and life.

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