Monday, March 21, 2011

The Raising Presents a Creepy Ghost Tale in an Academic Setting

If you are looking for a spooky, smart book to keep you up nights and give you the shivers, look no further than Laura Kasischke's newest novel The Raising. After reading a review of the novel on Book Hooked Blog back in January, I couldn't wait to read it for myself.

Although I did not grow up watching scary movies (my mom was a weenie, and still admits it to this day!), as a young adult and now adult I've grown to appreciate them. Some I can't stomach (later versions of Saw and Hostel come to mind), but others (Paranormal Activity, Let the Right One In) are among my favorite movies. The Raising is the novel equivalent to those smarter, well-done horror films -- not the bloody, gore-fests so many have become.

The Raising is set in a small college town in the Midwest. I happen to love books set at universities for some reason; I guess it goes back to some sense of nostalgia. Carol Goodman is one of my favorite writers of academic books that also include elements of a good thriller. Kasischke's novel veers from "thriller" into the "supernatural horror" genre, though.

College students Perry and Craig are struggling through their first semester at school, thrown together as roommates in the Godwin Honors College but living very different lives. Perry is a conscientious student, trying hard to please his parents and prove himself. Craig, on the other hand, was accepted into the honors program only as a favor from the dean to his famous-writer father. He drinks his way through each day, delving into other drug experimentation, as well. All that changes when the boys finally find something in common -- beautiful Nicole Werner.

Nicole is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed co-ed from Perry's hometown. They grew up together, friendly but not necessarily friends. In their small hometown, however, everyone knows everyone else; when the two end up at a university far from home, Nicole begins to depend on Perry as the link to home that she so desperately needs. The two form a study group, where Craig encounters her. Craig and Nicole eventually begin dating -- a relationship viewed as serious by Craig, but more casual by Nicole. One night, the two are driving in a borrowed car and a terrible accident occurs, killing Nicole. In the aftermath, her sorority begins a campaign to have Craig kicked off campus and charged with reckless homicide.

A year later, as the novel opens, Craig has decided to return to campus and to room with Perry again. A series of intertwined stories tell the story of Nicole's death -- and possible raising. She is seen by students all over campus, and Craig is haunted by postcards and phone calls from someone claiming to be Nicole. Kasischke tells this story in fits and starts -- flashbacks occur without warning, throwing the reader from the present into the past at the turn of a page. Readers meet Shelly, a music professor who was the only witness to the accident; Mira, a professor who specializes in death rituals and the afterlife; Josie, Nicole's old roommate and sorority sister; and, of course, Perry and Craig.

The story's movement from past to present sets a frenetic pace for an increasingly creepy tale. As more is revealed, the tale only becomes more terrifying. Kasischke explores not only the possibility of the dead being raised, but also university politics and sorority hazings. I'm still a bit unsure of how I feel about the ending; Kasischke leaves a bit too much up to the reader to decide. On the other hand, however, perhaps that is exactly the point -- there are things we will never know with certainty.

Laura Kasischke is also the author of several volumes of poetry and several novels. Most notably, she wrote the novel The Life Before Her Eyes, which was made into a 2008 film of the same name starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood. Kasischke is also a professor at the University of Michigan in the MFA creative writing program.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Kasischke and especially loved The Life Before Her Eyes. Glad to see a review of this new one. I can't wait to read it.



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