Richard W. Jennings, author of the critically acclaimed Orwell's Luck, sets his latest novel in Paisley, Kansas. The narrator is Spencer Honesty, who is stuck in this recently abandoned ghost town with his mother. After a plant closed, the residents steadily moved away until the two are alone. They remain in Paisley, since the Postal Service employs his mom and the Post Office is kept open. As someone who grew up near some old closed-up railroad towns, the story of Paisley is quite interesting.
They are incredibly lonely and Spencer is mostly left on his own to entertain himself. The only person that returns to Paisley is Spencer's imaginary friend Chief Leopard Frog. Spencer has a complex relationship with his imaginary friend, who gives out sage wisdom, carves evil totems and writes bad poetry. Eventually, Spencer finds an old camera and begins documenting Paisley. The device, however, is a ghost camera which can photograph Paisley's former residents. Spencer breaks some promises to his friend along the way, and tries to make it better through his relationship with the publisher of Uncle Milton's Thousand Things You Thought You'd Never Find, which sells things like vegetables that resemble celebrities.
There is a large cast of great characters, which is impressive considering that this novel is about loneliness and discovery. Jennings pens a coming-of-age story, but it is much more than that. Spencer's imaginary friend seemingly has all of the answers and in some ways embodies what Spencer wants to be. Ghost Town is about dealing with the past and the importance of new relationships. Some of the conclusions seemed slightly out of character with the rest of the book, but this is a super fun and quirky novel with some brilliant moments. It reminded me a bit of Tom Drury's novels and would appeal to anyone who enjoyed Daniel Manus Pinkwater's The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization.
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