The violent history of coal country barons and miners percolates around Jonah, a young man who moves to Centralia, Pennsylvania, for a fresh start after years of battling mental health demons. With an inheritance, Jonah buys an old house, befriends Oliver, a young man with autism, and becomes an item with Katie, who suffers with multiple sclerosis. Together they work at the small town’s hardware store. For the first time in his life, Jonah feels genuinely happy.
Enter the ghost that upends Jonah’s world in DISTURBED. His new house is haunted. Jonah now battles two ghosts – one real and one the voice in his head, both begin to push him off the path of sanity. Jonah’s friends stand by him, but the real demon, Eleanor, has plans for Jonah, stealing his medications and sending him careening back to crazy. It’s a battle for Jonah’s soul, with the evil ghost Eleanor using every hellish weapon at her disposal.
DISTURBED offers two different themes that meld to give the novel a twist on the horror at its center. One is a tender portrayal of young man fighting mental illness, making friends and living his life. The second is the suspense of the ghost versus human battle. Author Joseph J. Swope gives us a nuanced portrayal of Jonah earnestly working to stay sane in the face of real evil. The reader teeters on edge as the ghost and Jonah ratchet up their war, rooting for Jonah to prevail.
The history lessons include the Molly Maguires, a miner’s group that fought the coal barons and their henchmen. The characters’ connections to the Mollies are important to understand the story. The narrative moves along, but at times the history sections get wordy, and bog down the pace. There’s a minor editing glitch here and there, but nothing that significantly detracts from the novel. Swopes constructs a fantastical ending, in both senses of the word, that slams good and evil together. DISTURBED gives the reader closure, but the closing chapters seem slightly off, with the reader wondering if maybe the ending occurred a few pages back.
DISTURBED serves up a good ghost story with well-drawn and sympathetic characters, one worth the price of being scared.
~Greg Rideout for IndieReader