Nina Post – One Ghost Per Serving

Possessed by Rex, a mischievous spirit, Eric Snackerge’s life has careened out of control. Losing his scholarship and getting blacklisted from the legal profession are just the start – now his best-friend-turned-enemy is in danger of stealing away his family, too.

An unusual contest may be his last chance to make his daughter’s dreams come true. But he’ll have to overcome his own self-doubt — not to mention the seemingly impossible odds — in order to achieve that goal.

As Eric and his ghostly companion soon learn, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill sweepstakes. When the sponsors begin dispatching spy cameras, attack helicopters, and the kitchen sink – all to make sure that Eric doesn’t get any further – it becomes clear that the contest is only the first phase of a much larger, sinister plan to spread a supernatural pathogen throughout the food supply.

Do Eric and Rex have what it takes to foil the villains’ plan and protect the Snackerge family from becoming the next victims?

Earlier this year I read Nina Post’s debut novel The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse. It was a fun, diverting read, with some issues. So I was excited to see how Post had progressed as a writer with her second novel One Ghost Per Serving. The short verdict? A lot. The issues I had with her debut were gone from her sophomore effort. What remains is a highly entertaining story of a man, a ghost and a hunt for justice. In contrast to The Last Condo Board…, One Ghost Per Serving definitely does have some deeper themes underlying the fun of the story, creating a richer narrative and a satisfying reading experience.

Eric Snackerge is an everyman character: having been slapped down by life, he’s stuck working dead-end jobs which barely allow him to make ends meet and is slowly losing his family. However, life’s beat-down of Eric came with a twist of the paranormal though, as he was possessed by a ghost, Rex, at the end of his college days, which signalled the beginning of the end for Eric’s promising future, at least to Eric’s mind. I liked Eric and could sympathise with him, though he trod the line of being sympathetic to being weak quite closely. His development throughout the novel was very well-handled and I really like his gradual realisation that he may have been dealt a crap hand, but he’s the one that ran with it instead of folding and starting over. His interactions with Rex are both hilarious and touching, with Rex genuinely caring for Eric and trying to help him solve his problems. Rex has his own issues and while he’s flighty at times, he seems to have his – incorporeal – heart in the right place. I loved their support group composed of other spirits and their human sponsors. Who ever thought a jar of pickles could be housing a spirit and be sympathetic too? I really enjoyed the fact that the other spirits weren’t just comic relief, but had a true function in the plot as well. Eric’s wife Willa is an interesting character as well, with her cool competence and focus, but the one who really stole my heart was Taffy. I loved her quirkiness, her precociousness, her obsession with food safety, and her complete disregard to the normal conventions of social interaction. She’s very much over-the-top and I might question some of the parenting choices made for her, but I thought she was fabulous.

Eric’s story is interspersed with that of Nathan and DZ, his opponents in the plot, and a few chapters from both Willa and Taffy’s points of view. This keeps it interesting and I loved the absurdity of DZ’s way of running his business. One Ghost Per Serving is set in what seems to be a contemporary setting somewhere in Iowa. As in Post’s previous novel, there is minimal world building, just that which is necessary to the story, but never so little that it because a problem. I enjoy Post’s humorous writing style, though weirdly enough it leads to not taking elements of the plot as seriously. I kept thinking some of the happenings in the book are rather absurd and implausible, where perhaps in an urban fantasy novel that takes itself more seriously, I wouldn’t blink twice at some of them. This isn’t necessarily a problem; it’s just something I’m not really familiar with when reading.

Underneath One Ghost Per Serving‘s humour and shenanigans, there are some serious themes. The main one seems to be the message that we need to have self-confidence; that a lack of it leaves us vulnerable to our own inner demons and the more predatory ones in the real world. For example, some of the reasons Rex gives for being able to possess Eric so completely could be applied to domestic abuse situations as well. Another theme is the need for pro-activeness in striving to achieve our goals, whether they’re happiness, financial security or the respect of others. Eric might be the one being taught this lesson, but it’s modelled by several other characters, such as Willa’s single-minded pursuit of her passion for HVAC, Rex’s attending a support group for spirits who want to stop possessing people, and Taffy, who basically strives to achieve financial independence through her secret candy-making gig.

One Ghost Per Serving both made me laugh and made me think. Post’s development as a writer is clear and I can’t wait to discover what she comes up with next. If you’d like to try a more humorous kind of fantasy tale, One Ghost Per Serving is just the ticket; very entertaining and this time with a bit more substance.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.