I have wanted to read Justina Ireland’s writing for a while and was so lucky to start with her middle grade supernatural novel Ophie’s Ghosts. This was a 5 star read for me that I think even those who don’t enjoy historical or speculative fiction will enjoy.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on and/or purchase from some links, I make a portion of the sale. This helps keep Bitch Bookshelf running.

Find out more about how I review books here.

The summary, from Amazon:

The New York Times bestselling author of Dread Nation makes her middle grade debut with a sweeping tale of the ghosts of our past that won’t stay buried, starring an unforgettable girl named Ophie.

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts.

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works.

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.

Buy Ophie’s Ghosts here.

Ophie and her mother left their home in Georgia for Pittsburgh after her father was killed for voting. The only reason the two were able to escape their home before the white men who killed him burned it to the ground was because his ghost came and warned Ophie. Since that moment, Ophie has been able to see the undead ever since.
In Pittsburgh, Ophie’s mother works at Daffodil Manor, the home of the Caruthers, as a servant. Money is tight, so Ophie must leave school to join her. Daffodil Manor is full of ghosts. Ophie soon realizes that she has the ability to help these ghosts move on. She is particularly drawn to the ghost of a young woman, Clara. Ophie befriends her despite warnings from her aunt, who also has Ophie’s gift. Can Ophie solve the mystery of Clara’s death, which she quickly becomes aware is a murder, and help her move on?
So much is tackled in this book, which takes place during the 1920’s. I should note some content warnings for racism that go beyond what I’ve already mentioned. One ghost tied to the manor is a young enslaved boy who was brutally killed. Even though he died years before Ophie was born, Ophie faces terrible racism as well. Her father’s death was at the hands of racists, and Mrs. Caruthers, though seemingly nice at her best moments, is vehemently racist as well.
I don’t want to go too much into Clara’s story because the murder mystery was very engaging even for me as an adult reader. But I do want to note that this book has a very important discussion on “passing” and what that looked like for Black folks in the 1920’s. I don’t think that as a concept I ever was aware of as a child and I appreciated seeing that representation and discussion in this book.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Ophie's GhostsOphie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely awesome, loved the personification of the house, railway, etc.

View all my reviews

Book Club Questions

  1. Why was Ophie’s father killed?
  2. Why do Ophie and Clara become friends?
  3. Which ghost was your favorite? Why?

    Interested? Buy Ophie’s Ghosts.
    And don’t forget to add me as a friend on Goodreads!