Suburban Ghost

August 4, 2015

Reading Steven Jenkins’s book, “Fourteen Days”, I realized something curious.

The concept of this book is that a workaholic man is forced to stay at home for two weeks and the ensuing boredom drives him crazy. To get this across to the reader, the author is required to show the boredom, the meaningless tasks the hero employs to fill time, and the repetition. In other words, to make the reader feel the boredom, the story must show the boredom.

Yet Jenkins manages to show his hero’s boredom without making the reader bored. Well, maybe a few paragraphs, right at the beginning. It’s a small sacrifice for the reader and necessary to show the hero’s gradual awareness that things are not as mundane, empty, and boring as he supposes.

Left alone in his house, the hero, Richard, becomes aware of a presence in his house slowly. A noise here, missing keys there, until finally he’s convinced the place is haunted. It’s all because he’s able—indeed, forced—to spend significant quiet time in the house. Problem is, no one else sees the ghost!

But “Fourteen Days” is not only a ghost story, it’s a story about a man trapped in a life consisting only of his work. Whether it’s the job or a hobby or sex or eating, it’s all too easy to let one aspect of life take over all the others. For Richard, breaking that hold has a life-altering result.

And what can he do when the person he loves most in the world, his wife, refuses to believe him? Unable to convince her of what’s going on, Richard begins to investigate the mystery. This leads to a suspenseful and satisfying conclusion.

I found Richard a likable enough character, certainly one who realizes he’s made mistakes in his life and wants to change. When his investigation becomes a crusade, he does the right thing. But his wife, an otherwise loving and long-suffering woman, is anything but supportive when he tells her about his ghost. When he reaches the pits of despair and turns to her for support, she laughs at him. I would file for divorce.

5 Stars

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