Being Childlike (No, Not Childish)
Sunday Afternoon Visits: February 4

The Unresolved: T. K. Welsh

The Unresolved is a deceptively slim book about an actual historical tragedy. In 1904 fire on the steamboat General Slocum killed more than 1000 people, mostly woman and children, mostly German immigrants, on New York's East River. Many people suffered, and many people were to blame. According to Wikipedia, this was New York City's worst loss-of-life disaster until September 11th, 2001.

In this novel by T. K. Welsh, the spirit of one of the dead, Mallory Meer, is unable to rest until she uncovers the reasons for the disaster. Mallory, as a spirit, isn't very strongly anchored in time, and her thoughts and experiences drift backwards and forwards in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness manner. For example (from page 2):

My name is Mallory Meer. I'd turned fifteen the week before, and in an hour -- thanks to the only boy I've ever loved -- I would be dead.

I float around the white memorial in Middle Village, Queens, among the other insubstantial figures. We are the unidentified remembered -- the unknown, unforgotten victims of the General Slocum who continue, unresolved, like Tantalus, to grasp at something slightly out of reach.

Mallory travels through time and space, haunting the survivors and those culpable in the disaster, though most don't know that she's there. She learns things about their backgrounds, and their actions, and gradually pieces together the chain of events that led to so many unnecessary deaths. But it's a difficult non-life for Mallory, visiting with person after person, reliving traumatic events over and over again, and trying to communicate with the living.

This book is a haunting chronicle of the ways things can go wrong, one decision at a time, and the way people hide from the truth, and lie to protect themselves. There are also interesting tidbits about immigrant life in New York, and the way that breweries work. Although the writing style takes getting used to, I found the story riveting, and read it in a single sitting. I recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially mysteries, and fans of ghost stories.   

Book: The Unresolved
Author: T. K. Welsh
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Original Publication Date: August 2006
Pages: 160
Age Range: 13 and up
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Sara's Hold Shelf, Flamingnet Book Blog, It's All About the Book

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.