‘The Haunting of Velkwood’ is good and ghostly | Book Talk

“The Haunting of Velkwood,” a memorable horror book by Massillon native Gwendolyn Kiste, questions if ghosts know they’re ghosts, and maybe if the living know. “Perhaps we’re all ghosts,” says a character who is definitely a ghost.

Talitha Velkwood has been doggedly pursuing a normal life since her neighborhood vanished 20 years before. Eight houses with all their inhabitants, gone, except for Talitha and her friends Britt and Grace, who were away at college. Since then, writers and paranormal researchers have unsuccessfully pursued the women for the real story.

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The real story is that Velkwood Street is there and not there, populated with the ghosts of Talitha’s former neighbors. Talitha has never been able to enter the area as “the land doesn’t let you in. You can’t get close, even if you try.”

When another researcher approaches Talitha, she finally agrees, mostly because of the money he offers. She’s set upon by a dozen other researchers who are there to draw her blood, monitor her vital signs and wave a Geiger counter over her. Talitha breaches the boundary into Velkwood and finds the houses just as they were, but the people … well, they’re ghosts. Her mother is in an endless loop of frying bacon and sitting in her car but never going anywhere.

Most important, her beloved sister Sophie is forever 8 years old, and another of Talitha’s classmates, the strange Enid, holds the secret of the haunting. Talitha leaves and returns to the neighborhood several times, and each time the veil between living and dead seems to grow more transparent. The dead are supposed to stay on their own side.

Britt shows up and finally Grace, and it seems that all four of them are needed to send the ghosts on their way — or go with them.

“Velkwood Street isn’t your garden-variety haunting.”

Kiste’s admirable debut, the 2019 “Rust Maidens,” won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. About two Cleveland friends whose classmates are rusting from the inside out.

“The Haunting of Velkwood” (256 pages, hardcover) costs $26.99 from S&S/Saga Press.

Kiste grew up in New Philadelphia and lives in Pennsylvania. Her “Reluctant Immortals” was nominated for the 2022 Bram Stoker Award in the novel category, and she won in 2019 in the short fiction category and the short nonfiction categories.

Award nominee

“A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe” by Cuyahoga Falls resident Mark Dawidziak, already nominated for Edgar and Agatha awards, has been nominated for the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award as nonfiction book of the year.

Events

Advance notice for two events sure to sell out: Rebecca Makkai, whose “The Great Believers” was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, appears as part of the Writers Center Stage Series on April 10 at the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center in Cleveland. Tickets start at $22.50; go to case.edu/maltzcenter. Rocco DiSpirito joins the Books & Bites: A Culinary Literary Affair series on May 2 at the Parma-Snow branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library. General admission for the library’s annual fundraiser is $50, including a signed copy of the book; VIP tickets are $200. Go to cuyahogalibrary.org.

Westlake Porter Public Library (27333 Center Ridge Road): Alan Dutka talks about “Cleveland’s Millionaires’ Row: Its Birth, Glamor, Decline and Renaissance,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Register at westlakelibrary.org.

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): Noor Hindi (“Dear God, Dear Bones, Dear Yellow”) and Ghassan Zeineddine (“Dearborn”) join the Plum City Reading Services at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Pay what you can; register at loganberrybooks.com. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Christopher Kuntz talks about “Scott Brown: Cartoonist”), about Kuntz’s grandfather, who published cartoons nationally and in the Mansfield News Journal.

Cleveland Jewish Book Festival: In Zoom appearances, Elizabeth Graver (“Kantika”) and Aaron Hamburger (“Hotel Cuba”) talk about their books, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nina Siegal discusses “The Diary Keepers: World War II in the Netherlands, As Written by the People Who Lived Through It.” Register at mandeljcc.org/bookfest.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road): Jenny Jackson talks about her debut novel “Pineapple Street,” 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Richmond Heights branch, 449 Richmond Road): Carlo Wolff talks about “Invisible Soul: Uncovering Cleveland’s Underground Scene,” 11 a.m. to noon Thursday. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org.

Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library: Madeline Miller, author of “The Song of Achilles” and “Circe,” joins the Online Author Talk Series with “On Retelling Greek Classics: An Exploration of the Modern Epics,” 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Register at smfpl.org.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood branch, 25501 Shaker Blvd.) Tea Obreht discusses “The Morningside,” 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org.

Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Poets John Dorsey (“Pocatello Wildflower”) and Ken Gierke (“Glass Awash”) read from their work, 7 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Hudson Library & Historical Society: Novelist Philippa Gregory appears virtually to talk about “Normal Women,” a review of women’s social and cultural roles beginning in 1066, 1 p.m. Saturday. Register at hudsonlibrary.org.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch, 1876 S. Green Road, South Euclid): The 39th Annual Western Reserve Writers’ Conference features keynote speaker Brandi Larsen, the 2024 Cuyahoga County Public Library Writer in Residence, with “What’s Best for Your Writing Right Now,” and breakout sessions featuring leaders Shelley Costa, Deanna Adams and Anastasia Hastings, and a book sale with author signings, 9 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Register at cuyahoglibrary.org.

Massillon Public Library (208 Lincoln Way E.): A Local Author Book Fair will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by a writer’s workshop at 3 p.m.

Warren-Trumbull County Public Library (444 Mahoning Ave. NW): A Local Author Book Fair will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday as part of the library’s Family Book Day.

Reed Memorial Library (167 E. Main St., Ravenna): University of Akron English professor Mary Biddinger reads from her work, including “A Mollusk Without a Shell: Essays on Self-Care for Writers,” which she co-edited with Julie Brooks Barbour, 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Email information about books of local interest, and event notices at least two weeks in advance to BeaconBookTalk@gmail.com and bjnews@thebeaconjournal.com. Barbara McIntyre tweets at @BarbaraMcI.

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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: ‘The Haunting of Velkwood’ by Gwendolyn Kiste is memorable horror tale