Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland, a review by RantingLunatic
The fateful night Ophelia Harrison’s father exercised his right to vote in November 1922 in Jim Crow Georgia changed her life forever – the least of which was her understanding that she could see and speak to ghosts.
The remainder of the book takes place in 1923 in Philadelphia, where blacks find daily living easier than it is in the south – until it isn’t. The historical aspects of what happens is uncomfortably accurate. People in the north who still long for the days when slavery and owning another human was legal. People who have escaped to the north to try and forget about the “Bad Old Days.” The discrimination based upon how dark a person’s skin tone was. “Passing for white” persons of color who both deny their heritage and embrace the freedom given to them as being perceived as white.
Ophie and her mother try to establish themselves away from the tragedy of Georgia only to be drawn into the tragedy of others in Philadelphia. First in Aunt Rose’s home, with awful cousins who won’t allow them to fit in or try to better themselves. Aunt Rose who realizes Ophie’s gift and tries to explain it to her. Mrs. Carruthers who makes life unbearable for those different from her. The inhabitants of Daffodil Manor, from both sides of the veil, and the varying degrees of happiness and sadness they all try to suck Ophie into.
I wish the character of the cousin, Sarah, who was mentioned a few times, would have developed into more. To just mention her in passing as she was let me down terribly. I also wish we would have heard of the fate of Alfred, Helen and the nasty cousins after Aunt Rose’s death. I just feel the characters needed clarity; how they got to Daffodil Manor and what happened afterwards.
Overall I think this is a wonderful story, an introduction for those who are blissfully unaware of the plight of persons of color in the United States, especially those who were brought here against their will.
4 out of 5 stars