Susan B. Johnson,
Spirit Willing: A Savannah Haunting
(Bonaventture, 2007)

I was totally swept away by this enchanting little book and its endearing characters. Set in the heart of historic Savannah, it is a ghost story, a love story, a story of family loyalty, with a bit of intrigue thrown in for good measure.

Kind Aunt Olivia has raised her niece and nephew, Charlotte and Alexander, as her own from the time they were young. Conniving and greedy Charlotte has poisonous plans for Aunt Olivia and her beautiful, historic Hibiscus House, which has been the seat of her late husband's family for generations. What lengths will Charlotte go to?

Aunt Olivia receives assistance from a most unexpected source. Great-great grandfather Cyrus appears one night and tells Olivia she can help him by assisting him in keeping a promise made to his beloved wife on her deathbed. They become allies and friends as they set out to foil Charlotte. But did Aunt Olivia imagine him?

Strange things begin to happen. Charlotte has more than a bad hair day when she begins looking for out-of-state rest homes for Aunt Olivia. Olivia's dearest friend's home is saved after news of the friend's "haint" makes the 6 o'clock news. The builders remodeling a historic house into condos are beset with problems. Meanwhile, a subplot in Ireland that revolves around Alexander and his dearest friends may eventually come to put Cyrus to rest. But is he real?

Author Susan B. Johnson has created a memorable cast of characters, and I was sad to leave them behind at the end of the book. Her love of and affection for Savannah and its inhabitants is obvious throughout, and she does a very impressive job of bringing us right into the middle of it. The tiniest of complaints might be that it was sometimes a bit predictable, but overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to reading Johnson's nonfiction book, Savannah's Little Crooked Houses: If These Walls Could Talk.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

19 March 2011

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