Emily Gillepsie’s debut novel Dancing with Ghosts is an intense insight into the fractured mind of a young woman dealing with anxiety and depression.
We follow the main character Patricia’s stream of conscious as she deals with starting at a new school, making new friends, and having a new boyfriend. Patricia has a history of being bullied and subsequent mental health issues, which we get to experience through her thoughts and feelings about the world. She is suffering internally but trying to cope with the world around her, her perception of self, and how others perceive her.
Gillepsie’s writing poses some very thoughtful observations about human life, suffering, and most of all mental health. Being immersed in Patricia’s perspective as you read the novel, the reader gains a new understanding of what it may be like to suffer anxiety and depression. It’s a very empathetic journey that the reader embarks on, and you feel for Patricia and the world that appears to very cruel towards her.
Considering how dark and heavy the subject material of this novel is, the way its written is super engrossing and makes it an easy read in the sense that it’s hard to put down. You feel almost as if you are Patricia, experiencing the world the way she sees it, through some beautiful and dark lenses. While some of the other characters don’t feel as developed, it’s mainly because we are so consumed by Patricia’s point of view, and Patricia in the end is the only character of substance, and who matters to the novel.
Dancing with Ghosts calls to mind cautionary fiction like Go Ask Alice, but instead of just warning us about the possible downfalls of the mind and subjecting to us to themes such as abuse, mental health, and nihilism, it also informs us of the ways an individual feels in a very personal manner. Dancing with Ghosts is a novel about a broken person living in a broken society, where help is hard to come by. It’s at times devastating, yet it’s an essential novel for those who’d like to further understand the severity of mental health issues and gives a voice to those who feel silenced.