Bridget, a young, modern-day mother of 10 month-old Julie has left a prestigious career as an attorney to stay at home and care for her daughter. She makes this choice freely though it is obvious that she does have some regrets. Her husband Mark works ridiculously long hours for a gaming start-up. He and Bridget, though only married a couple of years, have steadily been growing apart.
Rebecca becomes a young bride at the age of twenty in the early 1900s. She marries a close childhood friend, one she is not immediately in love with. As Rebecca navigates the early days of living and working on her husband’s farm and the realization that he is very much in love with her, she suffers a tacit guilt over everything that she is not that manifests as a constant threat to her marriage.
Bridget and Rebecca’s stories are told back and forth and it is easy to see that the two women are connected, though not exactly in the way you may think. There is an unwelcome ghost living in Bridget’s home that only she can see. This aggressive, terrifying presence connects the two women and is obviously in Bridget’s home to collect a debt. The Barter (September 2014) is as much a ghost story as it is one about the sacrifices a woman makes that often only she can see.
Though individual components of the book showed promise and the author is a talented writer, there was just too much going on at once for me to enjoy this novel. The ghost itself was a confusing entity, not readily identifiable even though the original story, told to Rebecca by her beloved aunt, is assumed to have provided the explanation. Attempting to explain this story to my 12-year-old felt nonsensical. I could not help but think that the author really needed to narrow the story’s focus. Much of the book just didn’t make sense and there were too many loose ends that were never tied up. Why couldn’t Rebecca and John overcome their differences despite their love for each other? What was the role of the traveling magician who seemed awkwardly thrown into the story to provide an air of foreboding? Why did Mark haphazardly show up as the ending’s narrator?
Although the ghost linked the two women in time and there was a barter that was ages old and impossible to deny, the story lacked soul, a solid foundation and a clear sense of the mystical. Had these elements been there, it would have kept me riveted and wanting to read more of this author’s work. If you value a good ghost story, I’m afraid this one falls short.
Reviewed by Maria Ryan
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