Thursday, March 12, 2015

American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus

This is a true story, not fiction.  I was drawn to read it because the ghost was in Santa Fe and I live in Las Cruces.  I've been to Santa Fe to pick up my Bengal cats but I never actually visited the city.  This was an opportunity to learn more about its history and the people who lived there.

Harper sent me an ARC of this book for review (thank you).  It will be published this month, so check with your local bookstore to get a copy.

Ms. Nordhaus' great great grandmother is the ghost of the story.  Janitors and guests alike reported seeing a ghost at this luxurious home from the past that has been made into a hotel in the present day.  It got Hannah's curiosity up about which stories were true.  Different family members had tales about Julia, the guides in Santa Fe had another and she wanted to know the truth.  This turned into a huge genealogy effort.  To find anyone still alive that might have records or knowledge of Julia, she had to start at the beginning.  Both great great grandparents came from a small town in Germany and were Jewish.  They didn't realize how lucky they were to leave before Hitler came into his own power there.  Many relatives they left behind never made it out alive.

This is an interesting trip through history.  There's immigration, changes of culture, difficulty with language, and food they've never seen before.  I was amazed that she found a diary kept by one of Julia's daughters that gave her an insight into the family and Julia that would have been totally forgotten by now.

At the end, she still isn't sure how Julia died but she has learned a lot about her heritage.  There were several sad stories in the past.  Times were tough then and you had to be strong to survive.  Those that had weaknesses often fell by the wayside.  That happened in this family, too.

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but this one caught my eye and I enjoyed reading it.  The photos show you the people of the story and looked a lot like my relatives in the day.  My family also immigrated from Czechoslovakia, but came over after World War I.  This made it easy for me to relate to Ms. Nordhaus' family history.

If you like Santa Fe, genealogy, immigrations from long ago, or just plain history, this book will appeal to you.  Take a look at it and see for yourself.

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