Reviews for Polly's Ghost : A Novel


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 December 1999
When Polly Baymiller dies giving birth to her seventh child, she leaves behind a husband passionately in love with her, three sets of twins, and Tip, the child whose birth resulted in her death. From beyond the grave, Polly watches over her reckless and affectionate youngest child, whom she never had a chance to hold, kiss, or mother. Although Polly tries to ease Tip's journey from child to adult, her ghostly interference in his life sometimes results in disaster. Frucht, whose previous novels include Life before Death (1997), has written a tender and heartbreaking novel about a mother's love for her son, which defies even her own death. Frucht makes this unusual premise work because of her talent for creating believable characters. The novel loses steam, though, about halfway through, before it picks up again toward the end. More rigorous editing might have resulted in the elimination of one or two of the really tangential characters and incidents, but most readers will happily plow through the occasional draggy parts. ((Reviewed December 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 December #1
An odd, lyrical tale from Frucht (Life Before Death, 1997, etc.) of a mother's ghost and the lives she tends in her 30-odd years roaming the astral plans. Disembodied though fully conscious, Polly narrates her life-after-death, which is less about her life than the observation of everybody else's. After having given birth to three sets of twins, the charmingly irrepressible Polly dies in childbirth before ever seeing her single son, Tip, and so becomes his guardian in death. When Tip is nine, camping with next door neighbor Johnny not yet friends, not yet enemies Polly wishes for something to fall from the sky, an event to bind the boys, giving Tip a twin by proxy, to ease the loneliness she feels she's burdened him with. She s thinking of a falling star, but it s Tom Bane's airplane that falls from the sky into the lake, creating a vengeful ghost out of Tom, who subliminally needs to punish Polly's kin, and setting off a chain of events that shape her son's life. Dancing in and out of the consciousness of others, Polly ``visits'' Tom Bane's wife, Angie; his daughter, Honey; and Johnny's mother, Gwen. But it s Tip she is trying to make her way to. Slowly, all these lives begin to converge, making a strong case for the concept of destiny, or at least for the power of ghostly interference. Inheriting his mother's charismatic glow, Tip grows into a happy Lothario, Honey into the paragon of independence, while Johnny, lured into the water by Tom Bane's liquid bitterness, drowns, leaving Tip alone again. The narrative s forward thrust occasionally lags, suggesting a short-story cycle, but the detours are always beautifully imagined, redeeming the slow pace of Polly's eternity. The final, non-astral meeting is not so much a surprise as a welcome conclusion. A gentle foray into the infinite strength of love. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Library Journal Reviews 2000 February #2
In this wholly original if slightly frustrating novel, Polly Baymiller is a ghost. She died giving birth to Tip, her youngest son. Haunted by this child whom she never held, she directs his life from above, giving him the strength and curiosity to survive. The result is a discursive, ethereal novel, as Polly swoops in and out of the lives of her children, her husband, their friends, and several strangers, watching them grow and learn and love. The novel is made up of long, descriptive riffs, each section bright and interesting like a bead on a string, but it takes a while for the long threads of the plot to connect. Sometimes you wish for a tighter focus and a more sprightly plot, but then you are again seduced by the beauty of the language and the well-drawn characters. Truly, madly, deeply, this is a novel about the transcendent power of love. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/99.] Yvette Weller Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 1999 September #1
When Polly dies in childbirth, her ghost keeps up contact with the little boy she never knew in life. From a New Voices Award winner. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 December #3
In her previous novel (Life Before Death), Frucht explored a woman's attempt to open herself completely to wonder and sorrow before she was consumed by cancer. Her fifth book inverts that premise: here, a woman who has already passed into the realm of spirits fervently wrestles with the love and grief that bind her to her young son, Tip, whose earthly existence she exchanged for her own at his birth. In life, Polly Baymiller was pert, game and un-self-consciously smug: a housewife to a good-looking man "as savvy with me as he was in business," and a mother to three sets of twins when she became pregnant with Tip. As a ghost, watching her husband turn away from Tip out of anger over his role in her death, Polly yearns to guide her handsome son through his youth. Yet she is constantly pulled away by "Night, my capricious dance partner, vain in its black tuxedo," who plunks her down to observe and assuage the grief of other mortals--including the motherless five-year-old son of a crude truck driver, the boy's wayward uncle and a pregnant woman whose husband dies in a plane crash Polly may inadvertently have prompted (since "ghosts don't know how to be ghosts right away" and must find "the routes that might lead us to rest"). Known for her fluid lyricism, Frucht relates Polly's meandering journey in sensuous prose that verges on preciousness, in part because the conventional characters and vague plot do not match its richness. Her characters' awakenings to life's small miracles and nagging regrets, punctuated by small gestures toward a plot, leave the reader not with the sense of contemplative completion the author apparently intends, but with the disheartening feeling that, amid all its exposition, this too-long novel gives up the ghost. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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