Author: Janis Owens
Title: American Ghost
Description: Sam Lense is in the backwoods of the Florida Panhandle researching descendants of Indian tribes, but he has a personal motive for being there as well. Once he meets Jolee Hoyt, though, he’s mostly just falling in love. An ill-fated trip to the Hoyts’ fishing camp leaves Sam fighting for his life back in Miami and Jolee feeling bewildered and betrayed. They both put the time behind them until the past insists on resurfacing yet again.
Plot: Some places just don’t want outsiders and don’t want their secrets disturbed.
Characters: Jolee is Owens’ masterpiece; she’s a smart, independent heroine born into a family that sees women as servants in a town that no one ever escapes from. Sam can appreciate this kind of woman, but he has to fight years of tradition.
Writing style: If it’s nothing else, this is a Florida book, full of atmosphere, Cracker secrets, and the ghosts of the past. In other words, it’s neither plot-driven nor character-driven, but place-driven, which, if done well, can be the best of all.
Audience: This is literary fiction, but it’s not a difficult read. It especially appealed to me as someone with an interest in Florida literature, but I’d recommend for anyone.
Wrap-up: I haven’t read Swamplandia yet, but this is my favorite Florida novel since Paradise Dogs. 4/5