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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Susan Griner's The Cemetery Sleeper Reminds Us of the Power Grief Has Over Us

We've all heard superstitions about graveyards:

Hold your breath while passing by one so your life isn't cut short.

Don't sit on a tombstone.

Don't ever lay down on top of a grave.

Unfortunately, the characters within this next YA paranormal work didn't get the memo on that last one.

image via http://www.pacificbookreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/c63a84_a1a28-e1407105094787.png
Cover art by Nicole Stremlow-Monahan

The Cemetery Sleeper is a paranormal YA novel written by Susan Griner. It's her first published piece of fiction, as well, and I'm sure it won't be her last.

So what's it about?

After the death of Freddy's mother, he is sent to the town of Mabry to live with his aunt Teri and cousin Emily until his father completes the process of packing and moving their possessions from their home. One day, he and Emily are listening to a local boy, Matt, as he tells a ghost story that warns of the dangers of laying down on top of a grave. Seeking to prove that Matt's ideas are ridiculous, and that nothing will come of such an action, Emily declares that she'll lay on one, thereby disproving Matt's claims... and she drags Freddy along to act as a witness.

Sure enough, nothing happens... to Emily. Freddy, on the other hand, stumbles into a headstone marked, quite simply, "Tump." All seems well until Freddy goes to sleep that evening. When he does, however, he dreams about Tump's life as viewed through Tump's own eyes. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that upon wakening he feels the same physical pain as Tump felt within the dream.

And things only get worse from there...

Throughout this ebook, we get to know Freddy, and we see the pain and grief he goes through after the death of his mother.

Indeed, we get to see the power grief has over us.

Griner takes us through the different stages of grief, showing us that they don't have to come in any particular order, and that each one is both necessary and profound, and we should take care not to stagnate within any one of them.

In this story, the paranormal - ghosts, in this case - have power over us when we believe in them.

Belief is a strong factor in The Cemetery Sleeper: Belief of superstition, Freddy's belief in himself, everyone's belief in Freddy. Indeed, there's a huge lack of belief within the pages.

I mean, who would really believe that some dead guy from the distant past has come back through someone we know?

Characters have to wrestle with their knowledge of fact and their knowledge of Freddy himself. And as a freshly grieving son, who can blame him for what seem like fantastic stories? He's just working through his pain.

Or not.

Griner's ability to not only show us what the stages of grief look like, but also to show us what the responses of others can do to us during this time is brilliant. I both understood and hated people's reactions. Just as in reality, nothing anyone did really felt right. Freddy acted in an unpredictable manner, and people around him reacted without really understanding what was happening to him.

Just as in reality.

I was impressed. Indeed, I was convinced that Griner had a background in psychology, though I've found nothing to show that. She did work within elementary schools, however, so perhaps her understanding came from a connection with the students she worked with.

This, of course, is all speculation. 

What I do know, though, is that Griner did a spectacular job of thinking like a young boy. Freddy felt real. Whether I agreed with his decisions or not, I understood them - I could even imagine myself doing many of the same things Freddy did, even though I knew the results wouldn't be particularly sterling. 

While it didn't quite tug on my heartstrings as much as I would have liked, The Cemetery Sleeper was a great work, and successfully dealt with grief in a manner that felt true, even going as far as to give the reader an idea of how necessary it is that we not stagnate in any one of the stages.

The Cemetery Sleeper can only be found on Kindle.

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