The modern phenomenon of ghosting has many forms, yet whichever form it takes, the end result is emotional devastation. Particularly when a spouse ups and leaves after 15 years, without so much as a see you. This is the punch to the gut that Laurie must deal with in Jenn Ashworth’s powerful 5th novel.

It’s a normal day in the marriage of Laurie and Mark. They wake up, make love and Laurie is irritated when she spots the curtain hanging off the rail. A short marital spat ensues before she goes off to work, because, Mark, currently unemployed and sitting at home all day, surely has time to fix it. When she returns home, however, he is gone. But he has taken nothing. Not even his wallet or his phone. Laurie is convinced he is playing mind games, and is determined she will not give in. He’ll come crawling back.

She tells no one about Mark, and continues her normal routine: working as a cleaner on a university campus, getting intensely irritated by the screaming of the new born child in the flat above, sitting on the balcony of their 16th floor flat drinking herself silly every evening. Ah, the heavy drinking, a sure indicator that something wasn’t right before Mark disappeared. As Laurie reveals more and more of her difficult personality, I began to wonder how Mark had stuck around for so long.

Laurie’s social interaction is mostly confined to her father, who is in end-stage dementia, and his Ukrainian home-help, Olena. Olena is taking on more and more responsibilities, rapidly turning into an unpaid carer. Laurie views this with distrust; there has to be an ulterior motive, and she behaves quite despicably towards someone who is, fortunately, kinder and wiser than herself.

When Laurie’s facade finally cracks – though this does take a number of weeks – the police view her with suspicion. Her mother-in-law comes flying in from Portugal and begins the search that Laurie had neglected. This forces Laurie to clean up both her flat and her act, and that allows her to view recent events with clarity, finally laying bare the trigger for all this trauma. In the process she is surprised and shocked by what she learns about her husband from others, because living with him doesn’t mean she has always seen him.

In a figurative way she had ghosted Mark, before he returned the favour, if you will.

There are other ghostings here: Laurie ghosted her own father for years, there are the figures that show through the newly painted walls in the room that Laurie and Mark never enter; the murdered child from way back that Laurie cannot forget, and, of course, a physic and her doings (fortunately played for a darkly comic effect.)

These ghostings, blended with the realities of working-class life in Morecambe and the raw emotions of a cast of straight-talking Northerners (being anything but straight with each other), make Ghosted an intoxicating (and at times very intoxicated) mix! Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

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