I came to Bosco for the quiet. That's what it's famous for. The silence reigns each day between the hours of nine and five by order of a hundred-year-old decree made by a woman who lies dead beneath the rosebushes--a silence guarded by four hundred acres of wind sifting through white pines with a sound like a mother saying hush.
--opening lines of The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman
The Ghost Orchid is part ghost story, part mystery, part historical novel, and, on a very subtle level, part romance. The story is narrated by Ellis Brooks, a first time novelist, who has come to Bosco, a residential writer's retreat in New York state, to write her first novel. Brooks' novel is based on events that happened at Bosco in 1892 involving the estate's mistress and her family and various guests who came to stay on the estate during one tragic summer. As it happens those very events are the events that are influencing current events and guests on the estate in the present time period. To divulge anything further about the plot of the novel is to give away some important plot points... and part of the draw of the novel is the mystery surrounding the characters and who they are and how they are each connected to each other and to Bosco itself.
The deeply engrossing story alternates between 1892, which is narrated in third person, not by Brooks and the present, which is narrated by Brooks. Often the story of the events of 1892 merges with the story that Brooks struggles to write throughout the novel. This device of alternating time periods every other chapter is frustrating after awhile because just as something happens and you're sucked into the events that are swirling around everyone, the chapter is over. And the next one returns to the other time period. This novel definitely becomes a page turner once it finds its legs because after you reach a certain point in the story, it becomes increasingly harder to put it down until you know the outcome.
One thing I noticed with Goodman that I seem to remember noticing with her other book is what can best be described as her dauntingly impressive vocabulary. Every once in a while she trots out a word, for example, "obstreperous," that I've never heard of before. It makes me wonder, are these words that she just knows, or does she have a really, really good thesaurus?
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman is available upon request from Annville Free Library, Lebanon Community Library, and Palmyra Public Library.