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by Allison Mills

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-77321-296-8
Publisher: Annick Press

When people need to rid their homes of pesky ghosts, Shelly is right by her Ililiw/Cree grandmother’s side to learn how to help the lingering spirits of the dead get to the other side.

Once she and her grandmother identify a ghost, whether of a person, a pet, or even household vermin, they allow it to attach itself to their hair before releasing it to dissipate from the earthly plane. Though this ability is matrilineal, Shelly’s mother objects to her daughter’s taking up the practice; she’d rather Shelly not spend so much time with the dead. When a sudden loss hits the family, Shelly sinks into a depression, spending time in the graveyard with her ghostly friends and desperately seeking to reconcile her grief. Mills (who’s of Ililiw/Cree and settler descent) mentions Shelly’s First Nations heritage at the outset and includes brief references to the ceremonial use of burning sweet grass, but that heritage is very much just a backdrop to the story. Most of the living people Shelly encounters, as well as the ghosts in the graveyard that she befriends, are not Indigenous, and the story centers on the ghost-hunting business and Shelly’s grief rather than exploring death as it relates to Cree culture. But that cultural identity raises questions. When Shelly’s grandmother gives music-loving ghost Joseph a new cassette tape, for instance, is she interacting with the dead teenager within a Cree paradigm or a mainstream paranormal one? Readers can only speculate.

Unclear cultural connections muddy the waters of this original paranormal tale.

(Paranormal fiction. 10-14)