A witness sees everything: on a stormy evening, a car suddenly flips through the air. When the witness runs over to help, she sees the beautiful sorority girl dying by the side of the road while her boyfriend cradles her in his arms.
In the year following Nicole Werner’s death, the narrative surrounding the accident is cemented: her jealous boyfriend, Craig, had been behind the wheel. Although Nicole had been found in a pool of blood, Craig didn’t have a scratch on him. Craig has no recollection of what took place that night, but everyone on campus believes he murdered Nicole. Many want him expelled from school, and when that fails, Nicole’s sorority sisters are clear that they intend to make his life a living hell. Meanwhile, a devastated Craig begins seeing Nicole’s ghost around campus; soon, a handful of other students begin seeing it too.
Laura Kasischke’s The Raising isn’t the type of book I usually pick up. As I’m prone to do, I picked up the book on a whim without really knowing much about it other than that people said it was spooky. Indeed, I ended up getting creeped out a couple of times. Part murder mystery, part ghost story, part folklore, The Raising features a revolving cast of characters to slowly unveil the circumstances surrounding Nicole’s death. One of the main characters, Mira, is an anthropologist who specializes in the subject of dying and death. As a professor at Craig and Nicole’s school, she develops a keen interest in students’ sightings of Nicole’s ghost, which supplements the book’s ghost story component.
I have mixed feelings about the book as a whole. On one hand, I couldn’t put it down. Kasischke draws readers in immediately with the book’s opening, and the story proceeds at a swift pace even though it’s a longish book. It was interesting reading about all of the scientific aspects of death, and I loved the parts that discussed other cultures’ traditions and beliefs on the subject (all courtesy of Mira). When combined with random Nicole sightings, the overall effect is spooky.
I also felt that the characters were strongly written. Each had their distinct (yet believable) eccentricities. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, but all of them were so different from one another and each contributed a unique piece of the puzzle. The ending was another thing that I thought fit the story well, though I can see why it might aggravate some people.
Unfortunately, the reason behind Nicole’s death was a massive letdown. Quite frankly, it was just dumb. I won’t go into more detail because that would spoil a lot of things, but considering how strong the rest of the book is, I was really disappointed. So I’m kind of still wavering as to how I feel about the book. The beginning was fabulous, the suspense was fun, and even though I was still groaning over The Big Reveal, I thought the ending was fitting and very much in the spirit of the rest of the book. But ohhhh…why did The Big Reveal have to be what it was?
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, mildly spooky book to curl up with at night, The Raising might be the book for you; it’s a great book to lose yourself in (and I did, for about 90% of the book). But if you’re an over-analyzer, you might find yourself annoyed by a few key elements.
The Raising was released by Harper Perennial on March 15, 2011.