In the eight years since he saw his fiancée die in a car accident, Ross Wakeman has tried repeatedly to join her. But after a failed suicide attempt and several accidents that should have been fatal, Ross begins to take an interest in hunting ghosts instead of trying to become one. In rural Comtosook, Vt., he spends time with his sister and nephew and starts investigating a piece of land that may or may not have been an Indian burial ground. Rose petals rain down and a house in the process of being demolished rebuilds itself. Meanwhile, Ross meets Lia, a mysterious young woman who also tracks spirits.
Picoult ingeniously ties the ghost story to a true one about eugenics. In the 1920s and '30s, Vermont and other states sanctioned involuntary sterilization for supposedly "inferior" people such as the mentally and physically disabled, convicted criminals and New England's Abenaki Indians. The history lesson makes for chilling, even shocking, reading, and Picoult (Plain Truth) comes up with many unforgettable characters. This is a fast-paced, densely layered exploration of love, the pull of family and the power of both to transcend time. (Atria, $25)
BOTTOM LINE: Great ghost story