Review: Giving Up the Ghost: A Story about Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback (August 7, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0385342438
  • Source: Publisher

Eric Nuzum grew up in Canton, OH in the 1980s. As a high school student, he never really fit in, an oddball of sorts. Not helping his situation were his strange dreams of a young girl, dressed in blue. She would attempt to communicate with him, but her words came out in a jumbled, indecipherable mess. He would relay his experiences with his small group of friends but they all dismissed him, believing this was just another means for him to garner attention. Unable to find anyone to confide in or understand him, Eric ended up in a mental ward, nearly ending his young life.

I was just a teenager, and I was already haunted. Haunted by my own disappointment. Haunted by a disconnection from the world around me. Haunted by a festering depression. Haunted by loneliness.

The one friend he had was Laura. A crush of sorts, she was the only thing that kept him grounded.

Years later, as an adult, Eric continued to have a fear of ghosts. He can’t stand the sight of closed doors, never knowing what awaits him on the other side. Just looking at closed doors fills him with an overwhelming feeling of dread. Not helping his state of mind are the memories of his youth. Recollecting on his memories of high school, he is saddened to realize that many of those close to him became ghosts themselves.

Desperate to face his fears, Eric recruits a motley group of individuals and travels to some of America’s most haunted places. After visiting a number of these locations, he begins to wonder if it is really ghosts that he is afraid of, or something much deeper. Was the girl in blue a true ghost, or a symptom of his weakened mental state? Is it possible that she is simply a visual representation of all the ghosts that reside within him?

On the surface, Giving Up the Ghost may appear to simply be a young man’s obsession with ghosts and their existence. Ultimately, however, it is much more than that. Instead, it is the author’s journey to discovering himself, accepting all his failures in life, perceived and actual. He skillfully portrays his emotional state of mind, the anguish and pain he suffers come seeping from the pages. A truly remarkable memoir, Nuzum doesn’t sugar coat anything, instead giving an honest and straight forward account of his youth.

In the end, what is most remarkable of all is how Nuzum flourished and excelled as an adult; he now works for NPR and has appeared on CNN. His success, in my opinion, can be a sign of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, for others suffering as he did.

Bottom line: Giving Up the Ghost is a truly compelling, addictive, and yes, ultimately hopeful, memoir of a young man suffering from ghosts in his own closet. Highly recommended.

Check out the playlist Eric created to accompany his novel. As a child of the 80s, many of these songs were a blast from the past, taking me back to my own youth!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Be sure to check out the other stops along the way!