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Riddance: Or the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children

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"Shelley Jackson is a writer of such extraordinary, uncanny power that the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I encounter her work. What an exhilarating, prickling, blistering book Riddance is! I made myself read it as slowly as possible in order to stay in as long as I could." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble: Stories, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in "Shelley Jackson is a writer of such extraordinary, uncanny power that the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I encounter her work. What an exhilarating, prickling, blistering book Riddance is! I made myself read it as slowly as possible in order to stay in as long as I could." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble: Stories, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in FictionEleven-year-old Jane Grandison, tormented by her stutter, sits in the back seat of a car, letter in hand inviting her to live and study at the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children. Founded in 1890 by Headmistress Sybil Joines, the school—at first glance—is a sanctuary for children seeking to cure their speech impediments. Inspired by her haunted and tragic childhood, the Headmistress has other ideas. Pioneering the field of necrophysics, the Headmistress harnesses the “gift” she and her students possess. Through their stutters, together they have the ability to channel ghostly voices communicating from the land of the dead, a realm the Headmistress herself visits at will. Things change for the school and the Headmistress when a student disappears, attracting attention from parents and police alike. Set in the overlapping worlds of the living and the dead, Shelley Jackson’s Riddance is an illuminated novel told through theoretical writings in necrophysics, the Headmistress’s dispatches from the land of the dead, and Jane’s evolving life as Joines’s new stenographer and central figure in the Vocational School’s mysterious present, as well as its future.


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"Shelley Jackson is a writer of such extraordinary, uncanny power that the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I encounter her work. What an exhilarating, prickling, blistering book Riddance is! I made myself read it as slowly as possible in order to stay in as long as I could." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble: Stories, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in "Shelley Jackson is a writer of such extraordinary, uncanny power that the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I encounter her work. What an exhilarating, prickling, blistering book Riddance is! I made myself read it as slowly as possible in order to stay in as long as I could." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble: Stories, finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in FictionEleven-year-old Jane Grandison, tormented by her stutter, sits in the back seat of a car, letter in hand inviting her to live and study at the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children. Founded in 1890 by Headmistress Sybil Joines, the school—at first glance—is a sanctuary for children seeking to cure their speech impediments. Inspired by her haunted and tragic childhood, the Headmistress has other ideas. Pioneering the field of necrophysics, the Headmistress harnesses the “gift” she and her students possess. Through their stutters, together they have the ability to channel ghostly voices communicating from the land of the dead, a realm the Headmistress herself visits at will. Things change for the school and the Headmistress when a student disappears, attracting attention from parents and police alike. Set in the overlapping worlds of the living and the dead, Shelley Jackson’s Riddance is an illuminated novel told through theoretical writings in necrophysics, the Headmistress’s dispatches from the land of the dead, and Jane’s evolving life as Joines’s new stenographer and central figure in the Vocational School’s mysterious present, as well as its future.

30 review for Riddance: Or the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    SPOOKY-BOOKTOBER CONTINUES!! When I myself am dead matter, I will speak the language of things. Then at last I will understand what it is that the world has been trying to tell me, all my life. writer/artist shelley jackson is experimental AF. one of the pioneers of the hypertext novel, she has also been writing a novella called ‘skin’ for the past sixteen years in which a single word of the story is tattooed on a participant (apply here!), and another ongoing story called “snow,” begun in 2014, w SPOOKY-BOOKTOBER CONTINUES!! When I myself am dead matter, I will speak the language of things. Then at last I will understand what it is that the world has been trying to tell me, all my life. writer/artist shelley jackson is experimental AF. one of the pioneers of the hypertext novel, she has also been writing a novella called ‘skin’ for the past sixteen years in which a single word of the story is tattooed on a participant (apply here!), and another ongoing story called “snow,” begun in 2014, which is the same concept, only even more ephemeral; each word is written in a patch of—you guessed it—snow. follow the story on instagram, which will continue until global warming triumphs. she has written and illustrated a number of children’s books (none of which i have read), as well as a short story collection and a novel both of which i have read and LOVED: The Melancholy of Anatomy and Half Life, but she hadn’t (traditionally) published anything since Half Life in 2006. so when i—having pretty much resigned myself to never getting to read anything else by her—came upon this gorgeous book cover staring back at me while casually browsing in a bookstore, i YELPED, and threw all my money at it. (yelping literal, money-hucking figurative). ‘course, i waited a stupid-long time before reading it, and by the time i picked it up—unbeknownst to me—the paperback had come out five days earlier, making it an extra title in my 2019 project 'to read (at least) one book each month that i bought in hardcover and put off reading long enough that it is now in paperback.' but i do not regret buying the hardcover one bit—this is an especially well-made book, with the paper equivalent of 300,000 thread count sheets that just feels good to read and to hold—a beautiful, weighty object, heavily illustrated with creepy olde-timey photographs and diagrams throughout: jackson spent twelve years writing this book, in-between all the tattooing and snow-writing, and it was absolutely worth waiting for. dustin called it “seancepunk,” which is not a term i have heard before, but it’s a perfect descriptor, so if he made it up, i am here, applauding him. hi, dustin! in less streamlined terms, it’s postmodern gothic fabulism, structured as a series of documents collected by a historian who, after experiencing a series of eerie coincidences, becomes fascinated by the sybil joines vocational school; a mysterious, somewhat scandalous institution in massachusetts, where children with speech impediments were trained to serve as mouthpieces for the dead; stuttering being a conduit to the deceased in ways far too complex to detail here, but when you read this book, you will learn all there is to know about necrophysics and necronauts and necromancy, with many illustrative diagrams to guide you: the documents consist of, and alternate between, “The Final Dispatch;” the transcripts of the school’s headmistress sybil joines’ final journey into the land of the dead, dictated to her stenographer over the course of the night of her death in 1919, “The Stenographer’s Story;” being the observations of jane grandison: a biracial orphan whose stuttering gained her entry as a student, whose ambition gained her special favor and access, becoming the headmistress’ right hand and chronicler of her story, “Letters to Dead Authors;” in which headmistress joines beseeches deceased authors (and occasionally, the characters of dead authors) for financial or other forms of assistance in her life’s work and mission, and “A Visitor’s Observations;” the notes of a linguistic anthropologist who...yes—visits and observes the school to develop his thesis on the relationship between language and loss. these are the recurring documents arranged by the historian, interposing them with additional primary and secondary sources, providing the first academic study of the school; one as comprehensive as it is controversial once circumstances arise that cast doubt on the authenticity of some of the documents. oh, and there’s also a murder. have i not mentioned the murrrrderrrrr yet? welp, there’s one of those. maybe more than one, once the backstories of characters start peeking out from the past. it’s an ambiguous, circuitous, and deeply sad story, filled with characters haunted by more than just the voices of the dead—lonely people seen as flawed or damaged because of their inability to speak clearly, searching for a place to call home: To run away from everything, even my own self, was to find a home I could never lose, because it was loss itself. it is also occasionally very funny, and there’s some striking imagery around the disconnect between the body and the spirit, the self and the spoken: “the feeling that something fanged was chewing its way up my throat,” or being "like a steak in a dress," a person "built around a riddance." it's a book that delights in language, filled with characters who cannot speak it, unless they are channelling the voices of the dead. it’s a 500 page book whose progression is sped up by many pages of images, but slowed down by the oh-so-chewy prose; the "outrageously overstuffed sentences:" It is a fault of our age to consider all that is eccentric—and by eccentric I mean merely and precisely what lies farther than usual from a certain, conventionally defined, probably illusory center—as representing only one of two things: the symptom of a malady whose cure would restore the patient to a place in the center; or a new center, toward which all must hasten. What is true, we nearly all agree on; what we nearly all agree on must, we think, be true. But I would suggest that there are minority truths, never destined to hold sway over the imagination of the entire human race, and furthermore, ideas—less defensible, but to me, even more precious—that are neither true nor false bit (I have sat here this age trying to compose a marrowsky better than fue or tralse, but hang it:) crepuscular. One might even say, fictional. Entertaining them, we feel what angels and werewolves must feel, that between human and inhuman there is an open door, and a threshold as wide as a world. but that is prose worth chewing on. it is not a scary book, apart from the horrors of institutions of this (general) kind; orphanages and corrective facilities of the wayback; and here, children are exploited and experimented-upon by a woman with her own childhood horror stories, single-mindedly pursuing answers by any means necessary. all that and creepy pictures, too? when can i have more? come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janie C.

    This is an exquisitely written novel about two women and a school for students with speech impediments.  The students are schooled in the art of channeling the dead, the process of which is aided by their stuttering.  Sybil Joines, the headmistress of the school, has survived a horrific childhood fraught with violence and lack of kinship.  Jane Grandison, a student at the school, has had a comparably difficult childhood, alienated by both her race and her stutter.  Jane becomes the headmistress' This is an exquisitely written novel about two women and a school for students with speech impediments.  The students are schooled in the art of channeling the dead, the process of which is aided by their stuttering.  Sybil Joines, the headmistress of the school, has survived a horrific childhood fraught with violence and lack of kinship.  Jane Grandison, a student at the school, has had a comparably difficult childhood, alienated by both her race and her stutter.  Jane becomes the headmistress's loyal stenographer, a coveted position.  The school's teaching methods are unconventional and bizarre, and the actions of Joines become increasingly aberrant as the story progresses.  Meantime, children disappear and an adult body is found on the school grounds.   Riddance itself is expressed in two ways: as a way of ridding one of oneself, and as a hole around which everything else is built.  Voices emerge from wells - the mouths and throats - of both adults and children.  These voices are not always their own, but are allegedly voices of the deceased.  Complemented by eerie photographs, charts, drawings, and a healthy dose of dark humor, the novel revolves around communication with the dead while concurrently questioning the nature of both life and death.   A psychological study as well as a detailed examination of the surreal, this book is a treat for anyone looking for a different and often challenging read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Kurtz

    Extremely and entirely my shit. Like the X-men but seancepunk. Like Mary Caponegro meets Lovecraft, minus the racism. Like Miss Peregrine's rewritten by Victor LaValle. Like Tom McCarthy's incredible C, but leaning way way into the necro-hermeneutics. Like nothing and nobody else but Shelley Jackson herself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

    A gothic epistolary novel that was unlike anything I have read. The photographs and diagrams were eerie and added a spooky atmosphere to the documents and letters. This book needs a bigger audience. It was a unique reading experience that gave me unsettling dreams.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    A small girl, a stutterer, mistreated by family and schoolmates, is invited to attend a boarding school for those like her. Sybil Joines, the headmistress, believes that stuttering, when properly channeled, is a highly evolved method of communication with the dead. Necrophysics, the study of the relationship between this world and the next, is Joines's raison d'etre. But the periodic disappearances of boarders, and alarming events that occur, cause an existential threat to the school that she ca A small girl, a stutterer, mistreated by family and schoolmates, is invited to attend a boarding school for those like her. Sybil Joines, the headmistress, believes that stuttering, when properly channeled, is a highly evolved method of communication with the dead. Necrophysics, the study of the relationship between this world and the next, is Joines's raison d'etre. But the periodic disappearances of boarders, and alarming events that occur, cause an existential threat to the school that she cannot tolerate. The history of the school is told from multiple points of view that bear witness to the grotesque school. This is a fully realized world, dark and challenging, with three-dimensional characters and accompanying illuminations and artifacts so realistic that you soon forget this is fiction. Riddance is an astounding feat of imagination.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The idea intrigued me, but the execution was not my cup of tea. Having to stop on every page to look up the meaning of a word bogged down the flow of the narrative, and storytelling was sacrificed for pseudoscience (think George Lucas's love of fancy digital effects and the effect it had on the quality of the prequels). A chore to slog through for me, but might be a perfect fit for the right kind of reader. I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss+.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    Like Jackson's art projects, Riddance is packed with fascinating ideas on how language and text is/can be delivered and perceived. The (often horrifically) unreliable narrators are oddly lovable despite their foibles. Dubious hypotheses are obsessively pursued, tested, and documented. Exchanges like this, between the stenographer and another student, both African-American, point to one of the elephants in the room:"Why are we working so hard if it is just to be an old white woman's speaking trum Like Jackson's art projects, Riddance is packed with fascinating ideas on how language and text is/can be delivered and perceived. The (often horrifically) unreliable narrators are oddly lovable despite their foibles. Dubious hypotheses are obsessively pursued, tested, and documented. Exchanges like this, between the stenographer and another student, both African-American, point to one of the elephants in the room:"Why are we working so hard if it is just to be an old white woman's speaking trumpet?"... "She is herself the speaking trumpet of the dead," she reminded me. "Who also seem to be mostly white," I said... "Or does the afterlife, too, uphold Jim Crow?" They go on to discuss why the dead seem to speak mostly a certain flavor of English. I loved the extensive sprinkling of what look like vintage photos (did I say "unreliable"?), "reproductions" of old documents, and the whole appendix of ectoplasmic objects. As the novel progresses, there are fewer specific references in the text to the photos and documents; they're mostly for atmosphere, and I thought they worked very effectively. Nothing much happens in the first half of the novel, but Jackson's play with words and black humor easily sustained my interest (no mean feat with my attention span!). Later, as unfortunate events perpetuate the deterioration of the school and the headmistress, there's no shortage of passages like this (spoken by the headmistress, supposedly):I feel my gorge rise, and that's my salvation, my body takes on mass, the dimensions unfold obediently into space, the glass apple collapses into a pulpous mass I spit out, and I say my moth, my mouth, I mean my mother, doesn't matter. I say something, and so I am something, again, provisionally speaking, provided I'm speaking. [4.5 stars]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Good idea. Excellent idea actually. But so incredibly tedious. The author has a wide-ranging vocabulary, and not just in the field of necromancy, etc. I don't think it's a good idea to use a $20 word when a $1 or even a $5 word will do. She seems to go out of her way to use the most arcane and erudite (see what I mean?) and mostly boring sets of words and even non-words (!) I couldn't get past the first 100 pages. I'd like a story about the young girl - simply the young girl - not the headmistre Good idea. Excellent idea actually. But so incredibly tedious. The author has a wide-ranging vocabulary, and not just in the field of necromancy, etc. I don't think it's a good idea to use a $20 word when a $1 or even a $5 word will do. She seems to go out of her way to use the most arcane and erudite (see what I mean?) and mostly boring sets of words and even non-words (!) I couldn't get past the first 100 pages. I'd like a story about the young girl - simply the young girl - not the headmistress or the 4th generation of the head mistress, etc. etc. etc. I don't mind a bit of intellectual bru-ha-ha - after all, I read a lot of psychological thrillers and suspense novels; however, this is intellectual to be intellectual. All of this is my opinion, of course - you decide if you want to spend your precious hours concentrating wholly on what the heck is going on, or if you'd like to just enjoy reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maris

    WOW.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Angel Gelique

    “...I had the uncanny feeling that the SJVS [Sybil Joines Vocational School] was created expressly for me, was summoned forth by my interest in it, towing its history behind it like a placenta.” This book took me down the rabbit hole on an unforgettable journey. But to be honest, when I first began reading it, I was so confused. I didn’t know if I were reading the story or some sort of foreword or preface. Nothing made much sense. I kept reading in hopes that the veil would lift and I’d final “...I had the uncanny feeling that the SJVS [Sybil Joines Vocational School] was created expressly for me, was summoned forth by my interest in it, towing its history behind it like a placenta.” This book took me down the rabbit hole on an unforgettable journey. But to be honest, when I first began reading it, I was so confused. I didn’t know if I were reading the story or some sort of foreword or preface. Nothing made much sense. I kept reading in hopes that the veil would lift and I’d finally understand what was going on. Though confusing, the things I read about fascinated me so I continued on, piecing together an idea of what was transpiring. It wasn’t until I was well into the story that I finally understood—and appreciated—the fact that this story is not written as a typical book, with a plot, conflict and resolution. Instead, I would liken it to an epic fantastical mystery. It is not action-packed yet somehow still manages to be thrilling and immersive. Through various documents, including letters to dead authors (no, that’s not a mistake!), readers come to know Sybil Joines, a woman who suffered a painfully cruel upbringing due to her speech impediment. She is the headmistress of a bizarre school called The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children, where kids who stutter are invited to partake in an entirely different sort of curriculum whereby they are trained to communicate with, or rather, speak for the dead. The concepts are unique and often philosophical, pondering life and death. The contraptions introduced are wildly imaginative which makes reading about their usage entertaining (and sometimes humorous). This book is very well written and highly engrossing despite its slow pacing. It has an air of mystery within a creepy atmosphere. Readers will undoubtedly struggle at times to make sense from the seemingly senseless but somehow the author even succeeds at making those challenges enjoyable. It’s a shame that this book has so many low ratings and negative reviews. I readers need to approach this one with an open mind and plenty of patience. It might take a while but the journey is worth taking.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    DNF. I tried. I really did. The concept was more than intriguing, and I love a creepy slow-burn of a story. This was not creepy, nor was it a slow-burn, because that would imply some movement at all. At 142 pages in, I've been introduced to the two main characters, learned something of their very traumatic childhoods, and passed by a host of obnoxiously obtuse and interchangeable minor characters. There might be a missing girl? Honestly, I've lost track of all these threads, which the author has DNF. I tried. I really did. The concept was more than intriguing, and I love a creepy slow-burn of a story. This was not creepy, nor was it a slow-burn, because that would imply some movement at all. At 142 pages in, I've been introduced to the two main characters, learned something of their very traumatic childhoods, and passed by a host of obnoxiously obtuse and interchangeable minor characters. There might be a missing girl? Honestly, I've lost track of all these threads, which the author has given me no reason to care about. Another review (glowingly) referred to the prose as "chewy". Respectfully, I disagree. It's just pretension, and a clunky pretension at that. I have a decent vocabulary and felt like I was getting tested on every page. I'm wondering if the author is aware that people usually read novels for pleasure? Honestly, I could do pretentious prose or I could do the total lack of plot/movement/characterization. I cannot do both.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    While I did not enjoy this book I appreciate the incredible imagination that went into building this intricate and complex story. Unfortunately I found the writing tedious and impenetrable. I finished and loved "House of Leaves" so I have a pretty high tolerance for this type of literary device but in this case it didn't take very long for me not to care. I had such high hopes for this book and it just didn't work for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

    Like a voice from another world... that pulls you into that world, Riddance is hypnotizing. You won't want to wake up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Amazing concept, but this format is a struggle for me. Riddance is not a bad book in the slightest, but I'm not the right reader.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    4.5 stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I desperately wanted to love this book. Spiritualism + a spooky school full of displaced children with special powers + a form of time travel...this should have resulted in a novel directly within my wheelhouse. Instead, I found myself frustrated with its meandering pseudoscience and lack of plot. The format of the book is appealing at first: an academic and historical dive into events that occurred at the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (which, truly, I desperately wanted to love this book. Spiritualism + a spooky school full of displaced children with special powers + a form of time travel...this should have resulted in a novel directly within my wheelhouse. Instead, I found myself frustrated with its meandering pseudoscience and lack of plot. The format of the book is appealing at first: an academic and historical dive into events that occurred at the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (which, truly, is a fantastic name for a gothic boarding school). However, the author ultimately focused far too much effort on explaining the logistics of her created pseudoscience, especially towards the end of the novel. This was wildly annoying, because at that point, I got it and just wanted to know what actually happened those final fateful nights. I definitely agree with other reviews here. It seems as though the author was trying too hard to be “literary” and forgot that a compelling plot is what drives most readers to finish a novel. I forced myself to complete it, which was sheer stubbornness on my part, but would likely not read it again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Someone I'm very eager to start reading one of these days. Especially of course the Burtonesque sounding The Melancholy of Anatomy. Meanwhile, this her latest reviewed by Daniel Green :: http://www.full-stop.net/2019/01/31/r... Someone I'm very eager to start reading one of these days. Especially of course the Burtonesque sounding The Melancholy of Anatomy. Meanwhile, this her latest reviewed by Daniel Green :: http://www.full-stop.net/2019/01/31/r...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I really wanted to love this book. Instead I skimmed to even finish it. Maybe others will enjoy it more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This story starts with an "editor" in the present day, who comes across the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (SJVS) through a newspaper clipping inside a book at a rare/used bookstore, then becomes curious about said school, starts researching it, and ends up finding references to it everywhere (including an online review of a pair of loafers). The subject of the newspaper clipping is a murder at SJVS, and that mystery becomes the central focus of the re This story starts with an "editor" in the present day, who comes across the Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children (SJVS) through a newspaper clipping inside a book at a rare/used bookstore, then becomes curious about said school, starts researching it, and ends up finding references to it everywhere (including an online review of a pair of loafers). The subject of the newspaper clipping is a murder at SJVS, and that mystery becomes the central focus of the remainder of the novel. Kind of. I've seen Riddance compared to the Miss Peregrine's series, and while I definitely acknowledge some similarities, mainly the "school for children who are different, run by an eccentric woman who becomes something of a mother figure," there's SO much more than that going on here. Forget straightforward linear narrative. We receive the story of SJVS, Sybil Joines herself, the stenographer (a student at the school, Jane Grandison), the land of the dead, and the murder alluded to in the "Editor's Introduction" via alternating sections: • "The Final Dispatch," dictated by Sybil Joines from the land of the dead and recorded by Grandison • "The Stenographer's Story," which gives a bit of Grandison's own childhood background and experience at SJVS • Various readings, including snippets from "A Visitor's Observations" about the school and faux-scientific explanations of necrophysics, and • "Letters to Dead Authors," in which Sybil Joines writes to Herman Melville, Charlotte Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, and others The continual rotation between the above perspectives, periodically interspersed with photos, diagrams, and "historical documents," creates a very slowly-forming picture of the school, its history and inhabitants, and the murder in question. There are also a few inserted "editor's notes," which add to the feeling that SJVS was a real place and this murder a real crime. I thought the structure was an inventive and effective choice on Jackson's part, and I really enjoyed it. I can't get over how well thought out this novel was. On top of being entertaining and spooky, which is pretty much always what I want from an autumn read, it has some fun "science" that made my brain hurt after a while (the dead, versus the dead dead, and the dead dead dead), an extremely unsettling atmosphere, and a lot of ideas to stew over (the nature of the "self," the meaning of (self-)erasure, and the white-washing of history, just to name a few). I feel like this is one that merits an immediate re-read, so you can experience the beginning with the increased understanding you ended with. If you're into all things dreary, uncanny, and supernatural, I definitely recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liz L

    I felt about this book the same way I felt about the movie Stalker: the drudgery and repetition are part of the point, and you either are super into it or you hate it. I'm super into it, so I loved this. But I understand why other people didn't. I will also warn folks that there is some really upsetting animal cruelty that is necessary to the plot but very unpleasant to read. You can easily skip it, because it's obvious that it's coming and the really bad stuff is all in the same paragraph. Overal I felt about this book the same way I felt about the movie Stalker: the drudgery and repetition are part of the point, and you either are super into it or you hate it. I'm super into it, so I loved this. But I understand why other people didn't. I will also warn folks that there is some really upsetting animal cruelty that is necessary to the plot but very unpleasant to read. You can easily skip it, because it's obvious that it's coming and the really bad stuff is all in the same paragraph. Overall, though: what an amazing idea. And what amazing characters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Judith Pratt

    This is one weird book. In a good way. It has many voices: Sybil Joines herself, her (Black) student, amanuensis, and next-in-line, the man who is assessing the place, and the author, who is writing its history. What is the "place"? It's in the title--a school for children who stutter, who can channel ghosts. They can even go through their own mouths into the world of ghosts. Which might be another world. Or another of many worlds. Not an easy read, and the pictures add to the strangeness. But wort This is one weird book. In a good way. It has many voices: Sybil Joines herself, her (Black) student, amanuensis, and next-in-line, the man who is assessing the place, and the author, who is writing its history. What is the "place"? It's in the title--a school for children who stutter, who can channel ghosts. They can even go through their own mouths into the world of ghosts. Which might be another world. Or another of many worlds. Not an easy read, and the pictures add to the strangeness. But worth the trouble.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steven Felicelli

    a 500 page treatise on time, language, identity, history - not for the casual reader (for the reader of: Heidegger, Ben Marcus, Tyehimba Jess, Thalia Field) - one of the heaviest books of the new millennium

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    3.5 stars I'm not sure where to start. If I were forced to describe the "plot," I'd tell you that it was about a missing girl at a school where children who stutter are taught to channel the dead. But that's really just window dressing. This is a book about language. Imagine your brilliant, philosophically-minded best friend wrote a novel about a ghost story. The friend who often goes on tangents about things you know are very smart, but are way over your head. That's this book. I went back and fo 3.5 stars I'm not sure where to start. If I were forced to describe the "plot," I'd tell you that it was about a missing girl at a school where children who stutter are taught to channel the dead. But that's really just window dressing. This is a book about language. Imagine your brilliant, philosophically-minded best friend wrote a novel about a ghost story. The friend who often goes on tangents about things you know are very smart, but are way over your head. That's this book. I went back and forth between being enthralled by Jackson's use of language and bored to tears by scientific mumbo jumbo. In short, Riddance is delightfully, gleefully up its own ass.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer G

    Ugh. I read over 100 pages and then just gave up. It was way to difficult to get in to. The way it was written was difficult to follow. The chapters written from the point of view of the stenographer were fine, but the other chapters were difficult to follow. Too bad - the story was unique and had potential, but the execution failed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paula Lyle

    I just couldn't get into this book. I kept reading because every once in awhile I thought there was more to it, but the farther I went the less sense it made. This just wasn't for me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda (My Reading Chronicles)

    This book was provided to my by @catapult in exchange for my review. I think I should mention, right off the bat, that you need an extensive vocabulary if you’re planning on reading this. I think Shelley Jackson is an amazing writer to be able to pull it off without sounding “monocle ridiculous”. I really enjoyed that, even though it had me running to the dictionary every other page. The book is told in forms of journal entries, letters and documents with some narration in between. The gist of t This book was provided to my by @catapult in exchange for my review. I think I should mention, right off the bat, that you need an extensive vocabulary if you’re planning on reading this. I think Shelley Jackson is an amazing writer to be able to pull it off without sounding “monocle ridiculous”. I really enjoyed that, even though it had me running to the dictionary every other page. The book is told in forms of journal entries, letters and documents with some narration in between. The gist of the book is that a girl gets lost and the headmistress of the school she’s in tries to locate her. The “creepy” part of it is that she’s lost in the land of the dead. Oh and every student in the school has some sort of speech impediment that allows them to reach the land of the dead. Did I mention it’s a school for that purpose alone? I didn’t think this book was at all scary. Given the plot I expected to have at least some scares but nope. However, the pictures included were downright creepy as hell. Thank you to whoever came up with the idea to add pictures in that style. They’re black and white pictures but the people in it are all doing weird things and their faces are so serious that they really creeped me out. I enjoyed the book but it fell flat for me. I didn’t feel any thrills or chills but I think the right audience is out there for this book and for those people it will be a five star for sure.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Idea is intriguing, but narrative flow just wasn't there. Lost patience half way through (second time around) = a DNF for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book is interesting and has a cool structure and story telling device, but I'm not sure I enjoyed reading it. To follow this book, you need to suss out what happened through readings (by unreliable narrators) and articles, etc. I can get into that at times, but here it just didn't grab me. Your mileage, as the saying goes, will likely vary.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Unusual in both content and form. I didn’t really enjoy this (except for the letters to dead authors, some of which were kind of funny), but I’m giving it 3.4 stars anyway because I don’t think enjoyment is the point here. Also it’s just obviously very well-written and intelligent (slash over my head).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A review from halfway through Should I really feel that I’m just not reading this closely enough to understand the complexities of what I’m sure is a dazzling literary creation? Or should I conclude that I don’t have the time to devote to picking apart a novel that wants to be “serious” literature but got lost somewhere along the way? I only know that at this point I would have to start again from the beginning if I want to be able to follow where the author has led me. — Confused and unable to r A review from halfway through Should I really feel that I’m just not reading this closely enough to understand the complexities of what I’m sure is a dazzling literary creation? Or should I conclude that I don’t have the time to devote to picking apart a novel that wants to be “serious” literature but got lost somewhere along the way? I only know that at this point I would have to start again from the beginning if I want to be able to follow where the author has led me. — Confused and unable to recommend.

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