Thursday, 16 October 2014

Searching for Lincoln's Ghost

Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost by Barbara Dzikowski
Review by Anna Belfrage

Remember to see below for details about the giveaway!!!

Some books touch you so profoundly it is with regret you reach the end. Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost is one such book, a reading experience that starts in a cemetery and ends in the same cemetery, but in between I have been treated to a beautiful, heartrending story that will stay with me, I believe, for the rest of my life.

Ms. Dzikowski is an accomplished writer, delivering her story in flawless prose. Her dialogue, her descriptions – they are excellent, transporting me to the late sixties in midwest America, a mere two hour drive from Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Indiana. Here, in a town called Castalia, lives Andrea Powell, an eleven-year-old girl who is about to start sixth grade at the nearby Lincoln Elementary School.

Andrea – or Andi, as she prefers to be called – is an orphan, and ever since her parents died six years ago, she’s been hoping that somehow God will give her a sign that there is a life after death. So far, there’s been no such sign, so Andi is pinning her hopes on this, her last year at Lincoln Elementary School. After all, there have been two sightings of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost there, and Andi hopes she will see him too, thereby verifying that there is some sort of existence beyond the grave.
Ms. Dzikowski delivers her story as a reminiscence, that is to say it is the adult Andi that remembers this momentous year in her life. This allows the adult to comment on events with far more insight than a child would have, thereby giving the narrative both philosophical depth and a haunting nostalgia.

Andi’s first day at school turns out to be quite catastrophic – at least for an eleven-year-old. The principal has decided to shake things up a bit, and so Andi ends up in a new class, with a new teacher. Even worse, her new classmates are among the slowest – and meanest – students, and where Andi previously enjoyed going to school, now she sees it as some sort of jail sentence, always on her guard.

Into this dreary existence comes John Malone, the new boy with caramel coloured hair that he wears long – like the Beatles – and eyes that have Andi’s heart stuttering to a surprised halt. Just like that, Andi has fallen in love. John, however, seems less than impressed with her, and in general keeps his distance.

Ms. Dzikowski does a fantastic job in presenting her child protagonists. Hovering on the brink of adolescence, Andi and John are complex creatures, torn between the children they are and the adults they will become. In John’s case, there is also something very dark smouldering inside of him, a wariness that has him rebuffing any friendly advances. John no longer trusts people, but Andi is too young to understand this and is repeatedly hurt.

The descriptions of Andi and her classmates will have most of us smiling in recognition – if somewhat crookedly. The class bully is as despicable as all such bullies are; the star pupil shines as much as all such pupils do. And in between we have the normal kids, the girls who twirl their hair around their fingers, the boys who test the teachers’ patience. They are wild, they are curious, they are downright mean at times, and clumsily kind at others.

Not only does Andi have to cope with her new class, but things in Castalia are further complicated by the racial tensions of the time. Once the school day has ended, the white children return to their neighbourhood, the black kids to theirs – that is how things are ordained. Until Ezra comes along, that is.

Wonderful, wonderful Ezra… a black man who has seen his entire family die away from him – through racial violence, through broken hearts, through childbirth – Ezra still has hope. He believes in the curative power of love, and in his shop kids of all races are welcome, gawking at the best candy selection in town. John gravitates towards him, and where John goes, so goes Andi.

With Ezra, Andi can talk about all those questions she can’t talk to anyone else about – mainly about God and the afterlife. Through Ezra, Andi begins to understand just why the class bully is as she is, and how important it is to try to meet hate with love. Not that she always understands what Ezra is saying, but his words bring her comfort all the same, and his quiet certainty that there is a life after death makes her all that more determined to find Lincoln’s ghost.

In her search for Abraham Lincoln’s ghost Andi finds an unexpected ally in John. Where Andi hopes this quest will lead to hand-holding and her first kiss, John makes it clear he is more interested in ambushing the ghost – or rather in discovering just what or who is making those strange sounds Andi has heard. Of course, there is no ghost. Instead, Andi and John stumble upon a secret that will have far-reaching consequences.

Life is rarely blessed with Happily Ever Afters – no matter that we really wish it would be. The racial tensions explode, the budding romance is crushed, and all we are left with is hope. Hope that there is something waiting for us on the other side, hope that someday the world will be a fairer place. The same kind of hope that drove Abraham Lincoln all those years ago to attempt to build a better society. The same hope that has Ezra telling Andi that “after winter comes spring”. And it does, doesn’t it? Every year, spring returns – which is why, of course, we must never give up on hope.
Right at the end, Ezra recommends Andi to read Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. In many ways, Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost is as full of wisdom as this little classic. Ms. Dzikowski has written a beautiful novel that has touched my heart. I am sure Andi, Ezra and John will touch very many other hearts as well.

The author has so graciously reserved a copy of Searching for Lincoln's Ghost as a giveaway. For your chance to win, simply comment below or at this entry's associated Facebook thread!

About the author: Barbara J. Dzikowski earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in counselling from Indiana University. These areas of study fuel her desire to create fiction that closely examines the human heart and its complex search for love and meaning. Fascinated by the passion, idealism, and lost hope of the 1960s, she is putting the finishing touches on her second novel about two families struggling with the changes and uncertainties of that decade, with a particular focus on the cataclysmic year of 1968.

Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost is available on Amazon and Amazon UK.


Anna Belfrage is the author of six published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and on her website. If you would like Anna to review your book, please see our submissions tab above.


  1. Wow, Anna, such a poignant review of a novel that sounds as if it going to tug at my heartstrings. I would really love to read this book. Definitely a "wanna read."

  2. Very moving. This is now on my TBR list. Wonderful review Anna.

  3. What an amazing review, this books sounds like a must for anyone's TBR list.

  4. Sounds like this book would be an amazing read

  5. Ive had my eye on this book since it was submitted to us and I previewed it. I knew it was going to be good. I hope I win!

  6. Such a beautiful and heartfelt review, Anna - and, as all excellent reviews should make you do, now I just want to read this book!

  7. I want to read this as well, and it is on my TBR TOWER.

  8. This has really whetted my appetite - I shouldn't enter (as my tbr pile is groaning) but I can't resist...

  9. Sounds like an interesting read. :-)

  10. Lovely heartfelt review, and sounds like a very good read.