Erin is haunted, and it is by choice.
If that seems rather innocuous to you, then you have yet to dive into Clay McLeod Chapman’s latest gem: Ghost Eaters.
Stripping the romanticism and fantastical glamour out of the concept of interactions with the supernatural, and, instead, diving right into every worst part of addition, loss, despair, and not the best kind of self-discovery.
Ghost Eaters is about desperation, and, while the irony of not being able to put down a drug-centric book was not lost on me, it is not a pretty tale.
The story centers around Erin, a girl with a few dreams, and some lofty plans to get her life where she wants it to be. The problem with Erin is that she is enthralled by her college ex: Silas. Silas is a dreamer, an addict, and a wandering soul. Silas, however, holds heavy influence over Erin, and — possibly more importantly — their mutual friend Tobias.
Slight spoiler alert: Silas dies, and then the insanity begins.
In her grief in trying to figure out just how she can find some closure with his death, Erin will do just about anything to close the book on Silas. Enter Tobias and Ghost: a drug that Silas and Tobias had been “working on” to see the dead.
Let’s just say things get worse from there.
One of the things that I love about Mr. Chapman’s stories is something that actually somewhat annoys me with many other authors: things are not tidy. Much like real life, not all storylines are cleanly wrapped up in a bow, and, for me, this really gives his worlds a more realistic tint. With Ghost Eaters this approach really focuses the madness and decent into Erin’s chaotic spiral. I have described this book to friends as “Haunted Trainspotting,” and I feel that there is a kinship in the portrayals of addiction that are compelling as well as repellent.
Progressing through Ghost Eaters made more more and more itchy. Yeah, it’s that visceral.
I enjoyed the worldbuilding in this novel because it rides a fine line between being placed in the very concrete space of Richmond, Virginia, while also straddling a liminal space of filth and madness.
Yes, it’s horror, but it is also social commentary, and one of the best damn books you could pick up this year. As usual, Mr. Chapman’s mind has spun up a world that I’d rather not live in, but I sure as hell enjoyed visiting it.