|Robb's Rambling Reviews
I would hazard a guess that you typically don’t want to lay around the house with a fever, but if you’ll check out Joe Hayes’ Ghost Fever, you may change your mind. I wouldn't mind laying around the house reading this one! Hayes’ bilingual novel, set in Dustin, Arizona tells a tale of loss, spiritualism, and redemption. It’s almost like sitting around a campfire swapping scary stories, but more on that later. Ghost Fever, also titled, Mal de Fantasma, is unique in that each section told in English is followed by a translation in Spanish. Thanks to Hayes’ gift as a storyteller, his use of dialogue makes the story flow as if he were actually telling the story in person. The casual conversations sound like stories told in a small town diner, and the banter is so believable, I found myself thinking I might actually know these characters!
Not only a master at creating superb dialogue, Hayes has a talent for creating the perfect mood to accompany his works. “Elena could feel the ghost’s breath blowing against her face.” Says Hayes, “It was icy cold. It smelled damp and musty like the earth smells. Elena listened wide-eyed as the ghost girl told her story.” Scary, huh? Kinda’ makes you want to hide under the bed? Only I wouldn’t. Who knows what’s under there! Hayes is not only able to create moods of fright and shock, but he masterfully creates a feeling of sadness and regret as we reach the climax, learning why the phantom is haunting Elena and her family.
And what’s a story full of great dialogue and mood without a great plot? Don’t worry, Ghost Fever doesn’t disappoint here either. Whether it's the intriguing exposition, or race to the climax, Hayes is knows how to keep the reader on their toes. As any good ghost story should, the plot twists and turns, leading the reader along with just enough information to keep them wanting more. None of this “I know what’s going to happen next!” silliness here. Once we are led to the climax however, Hayes uses the resolution to sock the reader with yet another punch to the gut. Way to go, Joe!
Now more about that campfire. Ghost Fever: Mal de Fantasma, sends me reeling back to my childhood, when my cousins and I would spend dark and scary nights at their family’s cabin in the woods in Upstate New York. Granted, my Aunt’s house was only about a half mile away, but when your swapping scary stories deep in the woods, late at night, it doesn’t matter if you’re a mile or ten miles away. It’s just plain scary! Thanks to Hayes’ remarkable storytelling abilities, I can relive not only the wonderful times my family shared, but I am treated to a new story I can scare my nieces and nephews with, as we sit around our campfire this summer, eager to outdo each other. I was also reminded of the good old days when families sat around together at the kitchen table, or the back porch, enjoying life in a simpler, more satisfying way. If the book does little else, it makes you want that. Sitting around with family and friends, swapping stories, and enjoin each other’s company. How that for an eighty-seven page book? Hayes’ use of creating bilingual book will entice readers who are themselves bilingual as well as reluctant readers and readers of ghost stories, as he seamlessly weaves Spanish and English phrases throughout the tale, as well as alternating chapters in both languages. Well done!
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Fever. Joe Hayes has created a work full of believable dialogue, a totally creepy mood, and an excellent plot. As an English teacher I couldn’t do better myself, and as a reading teacher, I’m excited to share this with my second language learners, as well as those kiddos who like a good ole’ scare. I think I see a book-talk coming on!
Citation: Hayes, J. (2004). Ghost fever: Mal de fantasma. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.