Thursday, July 21, 2016

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, July 21, 2016 12 comments
"A grieving teen believes her dead father is haunting her" --a tagline for my debut Never Gone, often raises this question: how could this topic possibly be Christian fiction?

Photo by http://morguefile.com/creative/whiterussian
What exactly is a ghost, after all? Do people have a consciousness separate from their bodily existence? If so, can it interact with embodied people? Can it do so when it wishes, or must it be summoned by the living? Is this entire mythos something created to explain demonic presences in our world?

In some circles, this latter view tends to dominate, though the Bible actually shows us an intermediate view: there is a consciousness separate from bodily existence, but it can only interact with embodied people through occult means because it exists in another realm or plane. See the story of Saul contacting Samuel's ghost via the mediation of the Witch of Endor in I Samuel 28. Trying to summon the dead is a bad idea, one that spells the end for Saul's reign.

In Never Gone, my protagonist Danielle has moments where she specifically fears she might have summoned her dead father, knowing that doing such a thing is very dangerous. But longing for a lost loved one does not make one a medium. Reaching across the divide between the living and dead isn't something people can do accidentally.

So what is going on with my ghost of Dani's dad, Graham Rhys Deane?

The idea of parental haunting is pretty old. Shakespeare uses it in Hamlet, for example. I also was inspired by the TV show Providence that aired from 1999-2002, in which a young woman moves home after her mother’s death, and often has long heart-to-heart talks and arguments with her mother’s ghost. The idea of a parental presence lingering to help a child fascinated me, especially when it’s unclear why it’s happening.

Is it possible that not every ghost appearance has a supernatural cause?

Generally, ghost lore in our culture is associated with bad deaths, with unfinished business. The question for me is whose unfinished business? The departed’s or the survivors’?

Dani is a fairly grounded Christian who knows enough “proof texts” (scripture quotes used to prove a particular point) to shut down her own natural emotions in the wake of a devastating loss. Her dad is bound for a happy eternity in heaven, she reasons, so she’s really not supposed to be upset.

This kind of warped stoicism that sometimes arises in my faith tradition concerns me. It’s bad theology to my mind, giving a false view of who God is and how he relates to humanity. In the face of it, a really hurting person can suffer deep internal fracturing. My story’s ghost is in some ways a manifestation of that inner state.

So how does Danielle cope with her ghost problem? I invite you to check out Never Gone to find out!

About Never Gone

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find a reason to hope again?

From the skyscrapers of New York to the sheep-dotted English countryside, Never Gone explores life after loss with emotional honesty, humor, and a touch of romance. 



View the trailer HERE

What is your take on the ghost trope?

12 comments:

  1. In my opinion, ghosts and God fit perfectly together, not because I don't believe in both of them but because I do. I've always thought it perfectly reasonable that God would allow our dead loved ones to communicate with us in some way if it was part of His plan for our lives and growth. Troubled spirits...? Maybe not so much. But even Jesus' apostles were allowed a vision of Moses and Elijah in their glory.
    By the way, I think you'd enjoy Waiting for Augusta, by Jess Lawson--an excellent non-creepy ghost story about a father and child.

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    1. Your mount of transfiguration example is an interesting one--there it is Jesus who summons the dead to help the living, showing his power over the living and dead.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll have to check it out.

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  2. Great post.

    I'm currently working on a story with a ghost. But since the genre is magical realism, it gets treated as something normal.

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    1. How the trope is handled depends very much on genre, doesn't it?

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  3. Good point about shutting down one's emotions. I can totally relate, since after my grandmother's death in 1983 I convinced myself not to grieve because she was better off in heaven. But I forgot that I should allow myself to grieve because I missed her. Years later, I had to work through that. Ghosts and God...good things to ponder and try to figure out, altho maybe we won't know the truth until we pass on ourselves and God lets us in on what's going on. :)

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    1. I think some misread the verse in I Thessolonians 4 "Do not grieve as the pagans do" and read it simply as "do not grieve." Yes, the hope of the resurrection changes how we grieve, but it doesn't make grief wrong. Jesus wept at Lazarus's tomb. As Dani's aunt tells her, death is the great enemy. God hates death.

      I'm glad that in time you were able to acknowledge your genuine sadness and begin to heal.

      I certainly don't have all the answers on the ghost question. As you say, all will be revealed when we meet our Maker.

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  4. I loved your point about shutting down emotions with doctrine that isn't rooted in the Bible. I hadn't thought about Saul's ghost, or about the transfiguration. I generally don't think that ghosts are good for the living, if/when they do exist, and I appreciate God's statutes concerning contacting the dead. At the same time, I dreamed I saw my grandmother giving me a wedding dress and a set of pearls before I got married and I found comfort in that dream. It felt like a real connection. Maybe, it wasn't. In either case, I felt that God gave me comfort through it.

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    1. Dreams and memories aren't quite the same as having a waking encounter with an incorporeal spirit. I'd consider your encounter as part of what's described in Hebrews 11-12: those who went before us in faith are a "great cloud of witnesses" with whom we are united through the Holy Spirit. Their former example, and their current presence with God is meant to comfort and encourage us in our daily work and struggles--and even intimidating new blessings like taking the leap into married life.

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  5. I have felt the presence of departed loved ones more than once, and I have seen "signs," for lack of a better word, that are so personal and so intimate that I know my loved ones have to be involved somehow. In each case, these are loved ones I know have been saved and are in Heaven; I don't know whether they themselves decide when to send these things or whether God tells them to send them at exactly the right time. All I know is that God and my loved ones are involved somehow and I receive a lot of comfort from these instances.

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    1. See my comments above on the "cloud of witnesses." I also believe that the doctrine of the communion of the saints applies here--that through the Holy Spirit, we have a connection with all the faithful throughout time and space. Our loved ones may know our struggles well and through that connection work to our encouragement.

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  6. Great post, Lauren! I'm going to buy this book, it looks really good! =D

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