In this family memoir, novelist Hannah Nordhaus investigates the life of her great-great-grandmother Julia, whose ghost is said to haunt her home (now a hotel) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Guests report strange happenings in the second floor bedroom that once belonged to Julia Schuster Staab, including cold temperatures, flickering lights, and a ghostly apparition of a woman in a long Victorian dress. Some rumors claim that Julia killed herself, that she died of grief, or that her husband Abraham murdered her. But what is the truth?
In American Ghost, Nordhaus traces the story of her ancestor Julia from her childhood in Germany to her difficulties as a young Jewish bride in 1860s Santa Fe, then a rough frontier outpost. Although her husband Abraham become wealthy in New Mexico, Julia never thrived and returned many times to Germany for unknown “treatments” and “cures.”
Nordhaus visits archives, pores over her great-grandmother’s (Julia’s daughter) adolescent journals, consults mediums, and travels to Germany to discover the truth about Julia. She discovers a troubled history – mental illness, disinheritance, and an entire branch of the family lost in a Nazi concentration camp.
American Ghost is a haunting story of immigration, belonging, mental illness, family history, promising new beginnings, and lives lost too soon – a very rewarding ghost story.
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating: Highly Recommended