Everyone loves a great twist ending, especially one you just never see coming yet makes perfect sense once it happens. Cat Winters deftly pulls off such a twist in her atmospheric ghost story that is also a fascinating foray into the days of the Spanish Flu.
Set in 1918, during the utter devastation of the mass killer flu that ended the lives of millions of people, the story centers on 25-year-old Ivy Rowan, who is getting over being sick herself when she discovers a horrible family secret. That secret leads her away from the protection of her family home and into the arms of the “enemy”--a German immigrant trying to make it in America during a time of anti-German hatred and violence. Ivy can also see ghosts, too, only the ghosts she sees are always portents of a coming death, and she never really knows for sure who will die.
As Ivy gets to know her new German friend, Daniel, she also takes to the streets to help flu victims and avoid the prying eyes of an ultra-patriotic group that is devoted to cleansing the nation of Germans and anyone who associates with them. Ivy and Daniel engage in a slow, hesitant “romance” as the world around them falls apart, providing much of the tension that drives this chilling story.
Winters, who is a critically acclaimed novelist, keeps us intrigued as Ivy and Daniel bond over sex, a passion for jazz, and their own fears, guilt, and regrets. They are both deeply haunted by ghosts, figurative and literal, of their pasts. The love story never gets mushy, nor does it take away from the tensions of trying to stay alive at a time when the flu could kill you, if not your own fellow man.
The most frightening secret of all, though, comes at the end of this haunting tale, when Ivy discovers the shocking truth about the world around her, one filled with the dead, the dying, and those afraid to live.
The Uninvited is a satisfying read, for the tantalizing story as well as for the lush writing. Part ghost story, part historical romance, part gothic novel--all entertaining.