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We Are All Ghosts in The Forest by Lorraine Wilson - Review

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about forests. There are three reasons for this, a lovely convergence of seemingly-disparate things: 1. My son and I have been reading the Hobbit, much of which is set in the eerie, spider-infested forest of Mirkwood. 2. I have begun walking more and have been seeking out Scottish woodlands to roam. 3. I have acquired an advanced reader copy of Lorraine Wilson’s We Are All Ghosts in the Forest. I often read more than one book at a time, and I enjoy making connections between two texts, like an unexpected conversation between strangers.

When I walk among the wild garlic of Roslin Glen, I am put in the mind of Mirkwood with its black butterflies and elven fires, and I am also thinking of the post-digital world of Wilson’s Ghosts, where the forests eat digital memories and wolves have been transformed into creatures made of both flesh and human stories. The world of Ghosts, much like Tolkien’s world, is abundant with vivid, unforgettable imagery: a myriad of flora and fauna, ‘dead’ houses haunted by ghosts, and bees that tell the future.

Do you know what else forests put me in the mind of? Fairy stories, which are so clearly woven through both the Hobbit and Ghosts. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings was inspired by a fairy tale, and he was hugely influenced by Beowulf, certainly a fairy tale of sorts filled with all the expected fairy tale things (a hero, dragons, and coincidences). Ghost’s fairy tale influence is, you could say, more literal. The wolves of fairy tales have merged with real flesh-and-blood wolves to create creatures that are literally distorted by fairy tales. Books of fairy tales are also nearly-sentient beings in the world of Ghosts; they desire to be told and have the power to heal.

Ghosts uses a fascinating premise (a world-wide internet crash releases digital ‘ghosts’ into the world that devour humans in their desire to become whole again) to explore very real questions about community, difference, and trust. The novel’s blending of past (fairy tales) and future (post-digital-apocalypse), natural and technological, is such a surprise and delight.  

Ghosts is a stunning novel, which is more than just a compelling premise. It’s an intricately-woven tale that blends fairy stories, contemporary anxieties about climate change and the influence of technology on our human selves, with a story that is, at its core, a tale of community and connection. I’m already looking forward to reading it again.

Pre-order Ghosts now! (you'll be glad you did)

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Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet living in Edinburgh whose debut novel The Grief Nurse was published in 2023. 

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