Second Look: Joanne Dahme’s TOMBSTONE TEA

I’ll start by this recommendation– If you liked Ransom Riggs’s MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, you’ll enjoy this book.

I’m not even sure how I found Tombstone Tea.  I think it was one of those odd Amazon recommendations because I was searching ghost stories and cemeteries.  It’s REALLY under the radar.

Jessie can see dead people.  Not kidding.  Before she moves from Doylestown, PA to Philadelphia, she has what her friends call “time outs” where she can see the dead around her.  Until she meets Paul, a handsome cemetery groundskeeper, she doesn’t realize that she has a special gift.

Desperate to make new friends (who just happen to be blonde, perky and popular), Jessie takes a dare to spend the night (alone) in Laurel Hill Cemetery and collect grave rubbings of 10 people.  When she enters the cemetery at dusk, she meets Paul who agrees to help her with her dare.  She only gets two rubbings before the ghost of Jenny Halprin, a vile woman, attacks her.  Needless to say, Jessie runs screaming from the cemetery.

The following day, on a daytime trip back to LHC with her mom, Jessie has a change of spirit and decides to help Miss Mary coordinate a Tombstone Tea.  An event that brings people to the cemetery to learn about the histories of those buried there.

Over the course of the book, she realizes she must help the ghostly community “banish” Jenny Halprin, a malevolent spirit.

Weird. That was my initial thought after reading the first “part” of the book.  It was just weird.  The premise of the novel was interesting, I suppose, but the execution made me go, WTF?

The second part, told in Paul’s POV, is better.  It gives light to the backstory of the conflict with Jenny Halprin and her deceased daughter, Amy.

Parts three and four are back to Jessie’s POV and solving the conflict.  The story becomes more interesting, though it’s still a little strange.

I was afraid the resolution would come too quickly, as the novel is only 223 pages.  Dahme executes it nicely, though.  There’s a climatic scene with Jessie, Mrs. Halprin, and Amy that resolves the main conflict.  And then the novel ends with the rehearsal of the Tombstone Tea.

Here’s what I don’t get:  You’re desperate for friends, so you take a dare to go to a cemetery at night, alone?  I’m all about cemeteries, but I’d never go ALONE AT NIGHT.  At least take a buddy with you.  Buddy systems never fail.  And then, Jessie has this horrible experience where she’s attacked by Mrs. Halprin and nearly by the other spirits of the cemetery, but yet the following day she decides to help Miss Mary plan a Tombstone Tea event, hoping that she’ll meet the spirits again?  There wasn’t enough thought-process for me to follow that train of thought.  It would have taken a while to change my mind, not a matter of a 10 minute conversation my mother was having.  Unrealistic.  (Yes, I see the irony – as it’s SUPERNATURAL FICTION.)

The writing was good.  After the initial chapter, the flow of Dahme’s writing works.  There’s a lot of description (but it’s not overused).  The climatic scene was a little chaotic, but I suppose it was supposed to be that way to really let the reader “feel” how Jessie felt.  Again, I think the resolution with Jenny/Amy happened a little too quickly/easily with not enough told to the reader.

Again, if you liked Miss Peregine’s, you’d like this book.

Rating… 3/5 stars


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