The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following:  ghosts, pregnancy struggles, death.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars


As The Ghost Clause is my first Edelweiss book request, I’ve decided to share my “Reason for Request”, and then my review. I intend to do so with any future approved requests, as they may help other bloggers with their own requests, but also incase I need a little inspiration for future requests as well.

Reason for Request: I’m requesting this book for the purpose of reviewing and sharing on my blog, but also for personal reasons as a native Vermonter and fascination with the paranormal. I actually had heard of the ghost clause growing up, so I am most intrigued by where Howard Norman takes his readers with this goofy VT law.

After I got approved (and settled all my excitement), I dove into The Ghost Clause.

Zachary and Muriel live in an old farmhouse in Calais, Vermont. Muriel is a poetry professor at UNH, and Zachary works at Green Mountain Agency as a detective, with his first case being a missing child, ten year old Corrine Moore. The young couple are excited about their new residence and eager to become a part of the town, and Zach is determined to find Corrine Moore.

Alternatively, we hear about the life of Simon and Lorca, the previous owners of Zach and Muriel’s home. This couple admired the history of the home and were eager to start their own family in it together. As the reader continues, we find out that Simon is haunting his old residence, after passing from a heart attack.

Zach and Muriel learned that the house has a “ghost clause”, in which if they find their home to be haunted, the seller must buy back the property. It’s a strange Vermont law, and though rare, it is not unheard of. When century old homes populate the rural properties of the state, there’s bound to be a spirit or to hanging around. The interesting thing is, I’m pretty sure Lorca knew that Simon would come back to their house.

Simon spends much of his time observing Zach and Muriel, as well as reading in the library and reminiscing about his life with Lorca. He also contemplates where he is in his non-existence- what it means to be a spirit, or to have memories not tied to his physical brain. The reader is easily swept away into the haunting tale of these two loving couples.

Howard Norman is a wordsmith, who uses beautiful descriptive yet strategic language- I don’t feel like I’m struggling to cypher his meaning, but he certainly added new words such as lepidopterist and elegiac to my vocabulary. Though the narrative tends to meander, I felt that it ties well with Simon’s ghostly observational habits. Often, the story is about the small intimacies between the couples- the time they spend (or spent) together, their hopes and dreams, their daily life. It’s not overly riveting or exciting, but the writing tends to pull you in anyway.

Overall, I would say I was expecting a ghost story and instead received two love stories that blended together. It’s not a disappointment, but I did think I was a little mislead by the book title and description. Once I was into the novel, I was curious to learn more about the couples, but the meandering plot line definitely kept me from tearing through the novel. In the end, I think I would still recommend it, but only to certain readers looking for a specific type of read. I’d say that if you’re looking for a non-typical love story, or a linguistic read, this would be a good option.

Expected Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

TL/DR: The Ghost Clause is a nontypical love story mixed with a ghostly twist.

Read it? Meh. I honestly had higher expectations and felt that in the end, the novel didn’t leave much impression, so you could probably skip this one.

Recommend it? Yes, but only to specific audiences looking for this kind of book.

Buy it? I would have bought this book just for the cover, because hello, books and cats. However, I would read a borrowed copy of this book before I bought it.

If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:

  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Categories: Book Review, Contemporary, Fiction, Paranormal, Vermont Reads

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4 replies


  1. The Invited by Jennifer McMahon – The Lexington Bookie
  2. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver – The Lexington Bookie
  3. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – The Lexington Bookie
  4. June Monthly Wrap-Up – The Lexington Bookie

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