American Ghost by Janis Owens
A Novel

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Synopsis

JOLIE HOYT IS A GOOD SOUTHERN GIRL living in Hendrix, a small Florida Panhandle town. The daughter of a Pentecostal preacher who sells insurance on the side, and the best friend of a lively beauty who moves to the big city to pursue a career in interior design, Jolie is all too aware of her family’s closet full of secrets and long-held distrust of outsiders. Nevertheless, she throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region.

Jolie and Sam fall recklessly in love and dream of beginning a life together, far away from Jolie’s buried past. But their affair ends abruptly when Sam is discovered to have pried too deeply into Hendrix’s dark racial history and he becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence.

Twelve years later, when a black businessman from Memphis returns to Hendrix to do right by his father’s memory, Jolie and Sam are brought together again. They are forced to revisit the unresolved issues of their young love and finally shed light on the ugly history of Jolie’s hometown.

A complex and compulsively readable Southern saga, continuing in the tradition established by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and brought into the new millennium by writers like Karen Russell and Kathryn Stockett, American Ghost was inspired by Janis Owens’s extensive research on a real lynching that occurred in 1934 in Marianna, Florida.

American Ghost is a richly woven exploration of how the events of our past haunt our present.
 

About Janis Owens

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Janis Owens is the author of three previous novels and a regional cookbook. The only daughter of a Pentecostal preacher turned insurance salesman, she inherited her love of storytelling from her parents. She lives in Newberry, Florida.
 
Published October 9, 2012 by Scribner. 306 pages
Genres: History, Romance, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for American Ghost

Kirkus Reviews

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As they stir up the ashes, Jolie and Sam are once again drawn to their ancestors’ past and to each other as they try to lay to rest the events that have haunted the community since 1938 and to discover the circumstances surrounding the night when Sam was shot.

Sep 15 2012 | Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Based on the last reported lynching in America, Owens relocates the history to a tiny Florida town, where, in 1938, Henry Kite, a black man, was lynched after shooting a Jewish storekeeper.

Aug 06 2012 | Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Elle

Part historical novel, part romance, part mystery, American Ghost is an absorbing, memorable read.

Oct 23 2012 | Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Southern Lit Review

Reviewed by William Aarnes Nathan Brown’s Karma Crisis: New and Selected Poems (Mezcalita Press 2012) is an accessible, easy-going collection.

| Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Southern Lit Review

Reviewed by William Aarnes Nathan Brown’s Karma Crisis: New and Selected Poems (Mezcalita Press 2012) is an accessible, easy-going collection.

Oct 02 2012 | Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Southern Lit Review

And even though some riots and lynchings were set-off by genuine crimes, like the murder of Sam’s great-grandfather in the novel, if you wanted to make a generalization about lynchings or race riots in American history, it is that they happened because whites felt that it was time for them to hap...

Sep 12 2012 | Read Full Review of American Ghost: A Novel

Reader Rating for American Ghost
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