Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it’s clear that Eric Nuzum was haunted–by dread and hopelessness and also by a little blonde girl in a blue dress who came to him in recurring dreams to deliver a message that alternately felt like a warning and a threat. Giving up the Ghost becomes Eric’s mission and nearly his destruction.

His desire to keep from feeling too much results in continuous abuse of drugs and alcohol during his teen years. He unflinchingly relates painfully shocking episodes as he spirals out of control and lands in a psychiatric hospital where, ironically, they generously medicate him. It’s not clear what spurs Nuzum to finally take responsibility and pursue a healthier lifestyle. Shifts between his teen years and the adult looking back who goes about trying to make sense of his life by investigating spiritualism and ghost hunting make for a disjointed read, but it’s worth it.

Nuzum’s reports about what he found exploring Lily Dale where mediums routinely speak with the dead and his experiences in some of the most haunted sites in the northeast are fascinating. Nuzum remains haunted by his teen-aged relationship with the enigmatic Laura. Although they spent a good part of every week together for a year or more, Laura kept her family and her life outside the time she spent with Eric a secret. I’ve been haunted by this book since I turned the last page.

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