Monday, September 09, 2013

Glimmerings: The Ghost in the Glass House by Carey Wallace

"Hang on," Teddy said as Denby took his first step into the cave. Then Teddy struck a match. A terrible keening wail split the darkness. Denby staggered back into the girls.

Bridget clutched Teddy's arm. Laughter echoed through the cave. Bram emerged from the shadows.

"You sounded just like a ghost!" Bridget said. She touched Bram's arm. "I was so scared."

Not to be outdone, Denby pushed past him into the passage. In the stone gap, Teddy turned back. He held out his hand. "Clare," he said. She took it and followed him.

Bridget gamely picked her way along behind them. Clare tried to pull her hand from Teddy's, but he slid his arm around her waist. His lips found her face just under her eye.

Clare's skin crawled as if a spider has just run over it. She yanked free. But inside she had another feeling, as if warm caramel had just spilled in her rib cage.

Since her father's sudden death, Clare and her mother have lived as wealthy gypsies,  traveling from one rented house or fashionable resort to another through Europe and America. Now past her twelfth birthday, Clare longs to return to their own home, but keeps her feelings from her mother, energetic and sociable, but also somehow too fragile to meet anyone's needs but her own.

But as they summer in a house on the New England shore, Clare's emotional life seems strangely split, split between  death, always just on the other side of her mind, and glimmerings of romantic love which suddenly fill her consciousness as well. She notices what seems an innocent little flirtation between her mother and her friend Bridget's handsome father, and wonders at her own feelings of an unfamiliar attraction to young teenagers Bram, Denby, and Teddy.

A mysterious glass house on the edge of the woods behind the house draws her attention.  Inside she first feels an inkling of a spirit, one which soon speaks with her and seems to be a boy of her own age who claims his name is Jack. And when Jack touches her at last, his light touch affects her the same way that Teddy and Bram's touch had.
Clare felt a touch, light but undeniable.

"Could you feel that?" Jack asked. Clare nodded. "Don't be scared," Jack said.

She felt a faint pressure as he settled beside her on the divan. Then something like a shawl settled over her bare shoulders.

Another touch guided her head toward Jack's unseen shoulder. At first she held back, not certain it could support her. But it did. The faint weight of his hand covered her own again.

Both death and love seem near, frightening yet with a mysterious magnetism, almost like the mist that separates Jack from the house where he had lived and whatever lies beyond for him, in that summer when Clare was twelve and becoming aware of those things that had before existed outside her child's consciousness. There are changes to come for all of them, even the ghostly Jack, in Carey Wallace's fantasy novel, The Ghost in the Glass House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

Although set in the 1920s, the historical setting barely intrudes on this story, which seems to exist almost outside of time.  Wallace uses her settings, especially the deep cave on the edge of the sea and the glass house, furnished with rugs and sofa, yet somehow part of the leafy woods, to extend the atmosphere of this story of inside and outside, seen and unseen, past and future, set on the borderline of childhood and maturity.

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