A deftly rendered account of a family’s fight to preserve its heritage and home in modern-day Savannah, Ga.
It’s the last days of the summer of 1859 and Margaret Bisby is on her deathbed. With her last words, she makes her husband Cyrus Morton Thornheart promise that their beautiful home–the Hibiscus House–will never leave the family. For over a century, Margaret’s wish is fulfilled, and her stately Savannah residence houses the next four men to inherit the Thornheart name. But by 2004 only the aging Olivia Thornheart, sister-in-law of Cyrus Thornheart V, remains, and so the struggle over the fate of the family home begins. Though Olivia longs to finish out her days at Hibiscus House and pass it on to her nephew Alexander, her niece Charlotte has other plans. The real-estate market in Savannah is booming, and the conniving Charlotte hopes to move Olivia into a local home for seniors so that she can turn the house into a highly profitable bed and breakfast. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Charlotte has powerful, if invisible, enemies. The ghost of the long-deceased Cyrus Thornheart I is visiting Olivia, hoping that she can help him keep his promise to his dead bride. Though Cyrus appears to possess remarkable powers, his presence becomes problematic–Charlotte begins to believe that Olivia is becoming senile due to her conversations with the otherworldly specter. Johnson tells this supernatural family drama with grace and wit. Though the stakes in the family’s quibbles initially seem small, the author makes the struggles feel relevant. The portraits of the city are lovingly rendered, a nice touch that could only be created by a longtime resident of the Southern enclave.
A subtle and suasive ghost story.