Kirkus Star


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Young Peter Beagle, in this an unusual first novel, has other ideas about the world of the grave than Andrew Marvell. He sets his story in a New York cemetery and his ghosts roam free of their graves, make friends of other ghosts, and ultimately achieve contact with a select group of the living. One such figure is Rebeck, who for twenty years has found his company in the busy solitude of Yorkchester Cemetery. Two of his intimates are Morgan, a suicide, in life a professor, and Laura, a bookstore clerk, who finds love in afterlife. Theirs is the hopeless love of the living, with the persuasive intensity of mortal desire, and Rebeck, in sharing their story, begins to come out of himself. His isolation is further weakened when he encounters the very much alive widow Klapper, who comes from her Bronx home to visit her husband's grave. She takes Rebeck's limitations in stride, worries over him as she would over any living man, and rouses in him a half yearning for her cozy world, despite his identification with the society of ghosts. The climax comes when Morgan is transferred to a suicide's grave- and Rebeck, with the help of his living friends, risks his hermitage to take Laura through the Bronx to her lover... It's a fully rounded region, this other world of Peter Beagle's imagination, and he reverses the usual process in viewing the familiar world in terms of the world of the dead. He tells us more of his ghostly characters than most writers convey about the living. And his conclusion that life is our portion, not to be embraced reluctantly develops convincingly out of the fascinating intricacy of his plot. There's a bit of Thornton Wilder here -- a more vigorous Robert Nathan- but an originality that while occasionally refreshingly young, is wholly his own.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1960
Publisher: Viking