Petra's Ghost

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

Walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way) in Spain, Daniel has many reasons for committing to this journey. His grief over his wife's death and the dark twisting secrets about the death all make this an intimate portrait of a grieving man. Well written.
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Petra’s Ghost is perhaps the biggest surprise of my reading so far this year. While the description of the book with a man walking the Camino, the “Way” in Spain, encountering physical and spiritual and possible extra-physical/spiritual challenges during the months long walk appealed to me, it did not prepare me for how compelling this story actually is. It is a tale of personal beliefs, fears and failures, the quest for personal truth and possible redemption in life. As one man he meets tells Daniel,

”Each of the three stages is challenging in its own way.”
“Well the first part of the Camino is for the body,” the hippie says...
“You either get strong or end up in the hospital in the first part.”
“The second part is for the mind... The same meseta landscape
for days...” “Nothing to feed the brain but an endless pancake
of open ground. A pilgrim’s thoughts turn inward. You can start
to lose your grip with the monotony in the second part.”
“What’s the last part for?” he asks... “The soul.” “Aye, Santiago,”
Daniel says. “The cathedral.” “Not just the cathedral, my friend.
Everything that leads up to the cathedral. Everything that you
were hoping to find there... it all comes down to faith, my friend.
Faith that there is something you are walking toward. Something
That will alter you as a person... I’m saying you’ll either find or
lose your soul...on the last part.” (loc 2603)

Daniel has decided to pursue this walk after the death of his much-loved wife, Petra. She died a difficult, lingering death due to cancer and Daniel has not reconciled himself with that loss. There are also questions in his life he has been evading, continuing to be caught in Petra’s death. The others Daniel meets on this walk have their own purpose or reasons for being there. Some talk of their purpose while others don’t.

There is much to contemplate within these covers whether one undertakes such a momentous journey on The Way or not. One point of this really interesting novel seems to me to be that each of our lives comprises such a journey.

I do highly recommend this book. While some may not be inclined to read books with philosophical or religious content, I must say this is not in any way a preachy book. It’s a story of an event with some magical realism included, where people do think, often aloud, about life and death, history, the art to be found in the churches along the Camino.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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This was a wonderful book about walking the 500 mile Camino De Santiago .  Daniel is a widow who had planned on walking the Camino with his wife but she passed away. He decides to take on  the long journey to spread her ashes and honor her spirit. Along the way he befriends another pilgrim who he shares his life story with as is the way of the Camino.   As they talk and continue on their journey they are visited by spirits and revelations about their lives.   
The author has done a outstanding job of describing the Camino walk and the historical significance of the walk to those that honor the spirit of the Camino.   I love books about walking the Camino and the descriptions here are bringing the Camino to life for the reader.  Very well done to the author. I highly recommend this book for your reading enjoyment.  Thank you to the publisher and to Net Galley for the opportunity. My opinion is my own. I will be giving this wonderful book as gifts.
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Daniel and his wife Petra had planned to walk the a 500 mile trail in Spain, known as the Camino de Santiago, together; instead Petra is given a fatal diagnosis and Daniel decides to walk the trail himself and spread her ashes along it. Daniel learns of a woman who vanished mysteriously from the Camino de Santiago, so when he runs into Ginny, a woman walking the trail on her own, he decides to walk the trail with her. 

Their pilgrimage takes a sinister turn when a horrifying figure begins following them. The scene where Daniel and Ginny first encounter this presence gave me chills: "The only noise here is the crunch of their footfalls on the hard gravel. He is casting his flashlight in its limited range up the road when he sees the crouched human figure in the corn. It runs across the path in front of them and behind a crumbling rock fence." And it just gets creepier from there. 

Petra's Ghost is a fantastic ghost story about redemption. The setting is fascinating, and a pleasant departure from the usual horror stories I read, which typically center around houses. I loved all the historical detail that was provided as Daniel makes his way along the trail, and O'Cinneide did a great job weaving these details - which often contributed to the overall tension of the story - into the book.
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I started this book hoping to get some more insight in the people who walk the trail to Santiago de Compostella. Someone who was very important to my husband walked the trail, and was certain he would walk it again, it was so marvellous. Unfortunately, he died half a year later. So I started reading this book bent on liking it.

While this book had some interesting characters, it felt a bit ... scrambled to me. While it was easy to read it and keep reading, I had more difficulty really keeping my mind with the story.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Daniel is carrying his wife's ashes on a pilgrimage hike to try and find an acceptable place to scatter the ashes and find a way to move forward with his life.  There are supernatural twists in the plot along his journey.
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"A man's pilgrimage becomes something from his darkest nightmares when secrets arise and ghosts haunt his path.

A woman has vanished on the Camino de Santiago, the ancient five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that crosses northern Spain. Daniel, an Irish expat, walks the lonely trail carrying his wife, Petra’s, ashes, along with the damning secret of how she really died.

When he teams up to walk with sporty California girl Ginny, she seems like the perfect antidote for his grieving heart. But a nightmare figure begins to stalk them, and his mind starts to unravel from the horror of things he cannot explain.

Unexpected twists and turns echo the path of the ancient trail they walk upon. The lines start to blur between reality and madness, between truth and the lies we tell ourselves."

YAS! Just so much yas! It's a book that you read the description and instantly want to drop all other books to read.
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This book was very different from what I normally read.
It was a mix of a travel blog (the main character Daniel is hiking a Spanish pilgrimage trail) and a horror story. There is some very gory and ghostly scenes in the book. 
It do appreciate that the story had a bigger theme--it is really about forgiveness and unloading your burdens, which so many people do by walking this trail. That experience teaches you a lot and it reminds me a little of WILD in the way nature and physical exhaustion can help you find some self reflection. But the haunting piece and walking the trail with ghost was a very unexpected surprise. 
The writing was solid, but this story just wasn't one I love because of the random creepiness thrown in.
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4/5 stars

“We all have our ghosts, Daniel” Rob says (…) “The question is not if they exist, it is what message do they bring.”

This beautifully haunting debut by author C.S. O’Cinneide had me immediately intrigued with its premise, yet still surprised me with how deeply I ended up enjoying it as a whole. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy via the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Let me tell you: it’s one of the best ARCs I’ve read this year.

We follow Daniel as he walks the Camino, the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, carrying the ashes of his recently deceased wife Petra, in order to scatter them at his final destination. Along the way, he meets Ginny, a bubbly Californian girl making the same solo journey, and the two of them decide to continue together. Both find themselves haunted by the (perhaps literal) ghosts of their pasts along the way, and we slowly find out that both of them carry more than just the weight of their backpacks on their shoulders on this journey…
Petra’s Ghost reads like a travel journal, it reads like a psychological mystery thriller and like a gothic novel all at once. At times it reminded me of The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (which I loved), mixed with Melmoth by Sarah Perry and something else, that I can’t quite place.
It was the Pilgrimage to a loved ones final resting place that originally drew me in, as I feel like I can relate to it, albeit on a smaller scale than the 800 km Camino. I believe the author herself has walked the Camino before, and she does a great job of conveying the atmosphere and “personality” of the trail. The same can be said for the effect that the protagonists mood has on his experience of the trial. Grief can put a weird, almost surrealist and dark filter over things, which was portrayed wonderfully with the hint of horror/thriller elements along the way.
Speaking of which: it was the mystery that kept drawing me back to the book as soon as I put it down. Often with stories like this, I feel like either the mystery or the protagonists emotional background is tucked in as an afterthought. In Petra’s Ghost, the two entwine perfectly with each other, as well as with the previously established atmosphere.
Lastly, it was the ending that delivered the final emotional punch to make this book memorable to me. It was brave without being sensational, and emotional without being dramatic. Very fitting ending to this story in my opinion.

I do have one piece of criticism, probably aimed at the publisher, more so than the author. There is a line in the synopsis of the final copy of the book (that wasn’t in the description of the ARC), which gives a major clue to one of the final reveals. To me, this actually made it very predictable, and spoiled the potential of surprise in the end. If that line hadn’t been in the synopsis, it would have taken me longer to figure it out.

If you have the chance to read this book without reading the full synopsis in detail, that might be something I’d recommend doing.
All in all, there were a few things that kept this from being a full five star to me: mainly a few inconsistencies in pacing, and some of the mystery elements being a little predictable. That being said, this is one of the stronger 2019 debuts I’ve read so far, and I feel it’s both a book and an author to keep an eye on.
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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Growing up as a Lutheran, my religious education was very no frills. No saints. No transubstantiation. No relics. No pilgrimages to see said relics. But C.S. Cinneide’s novel Petra’s Ghost, gives me a glimpse into what motivates a person to undergo physical hardship to travel miles, to visit a holy site. This novel shows us a variety of those motivations: a grieving husband who is looking for the perfect place to put his wife’s ashes, a woman running away from her past, a Dutchman who really wants to make it all the way this time, and dilettantes who are not in the most pious mood and really just want to visit the wineries and clubs along the way.

The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela has been in use for centuries. (I learned from Petra’s Ghost that the Christian route is superimposed on a pagan route that used to go all the way to Finisterre, on the Spanish coast.) The sign of St. James, a seashell, appears in hundreds of places along the route to guide pilgrims who walk kilometers a day. Daniel Kennedy is there because he and his wife (before she died of uterine cancer) planned to walk the route one day. Now that she has passed away, Daniel is carrying her ashes along the route, trying to find the right place to disperse them. While this sounds like a worthy errand, this mission is a delaying tactic. Once accomplished, Daniel has promised to return to the family farm in Ireland. He has to resume his life and he really doesn’t want to.

Daniel runs into several more possible procrastinations. One of them, Ginny, turns into a huge delay—through no fault of her own. Ginny brings out Daniel’s protectiveness. No matter how much she protests that she can take care of herself, Ginny just can’t seem to shake Daniel along the trail. Not only does Daniel cross paths with Ginny, he keeps bumping into a sweet Dutchman, a lecherous Englishman…Oh, and a woman who is missing her eyes and appears to be actively rotting. Petra’s Ghost begins normally enough. The longer it goes, however, the more Daniel starts to lose his grip on what’s real and what’s not. By the end of the book, Daniel’s holy errand/procrastination turns into a full blown horror.

Even though the book ends up being a horror story, Petra’s Ghost never loses touch with people’s motivations to do big things, like pilgrimages. Perhaps, above all, the reason why people do big things like this is that physical hardship keeps our bodies occupied so that our brains can really work on whatever emotional, spiritual, or intellectual issues we’ve been wrestling with. There must be something about blisters and slight dehydration that sets our brains drift, just enough, to make real progress.

I ended up liking Petra’s Ghost a lot. I would recommend this book to readers who like meaningful literary fiction that breaks the rules. I would also recommend it to readers who like horror stories that have more to offer than jump scares and crazed killers.
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This was a title I thought would be mildly entertaining, but turned out to be much more than that. The depictions of life on the Camino de Santiago are detailed and accurate (I haven't done the Camino, but my wife and several friends have). The suspense grows as one reads, and I found myself staying up late to finish the book, once I'd made it to the halfway point. The existential questions of this book are worth pondering, but don't get in the way of the gothic thrills. Highly recommended.
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My sister and her husband have walked the Camino. It felt like I was hearing their stories again, only this time there was a darkness on the path. Maybe that’s what the Camino is about...time to see the darkness that we put aside in our daily lives, and deal with it. This was a very readable book. I very much enjoyed it.  Thank you to Netgalley for the advance ereader copy.
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Petra's Ghost is a great mystery with such descriptions that you feel as though you are part of the book. The book is well written and interesting characters.
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After reading this book, I want to walk the 500 mile Camino de Santiago (aka the Camino Way) myself. They say there are three parts to the Way; during the first part of the walk you find your body, along the second laborious trudge you find your mind and during that final homeward stretch you find your soul. It sounds extremely appealing sitting here on my couch reading about it from a distance but I can tell you if I ever do get the chance to walk the Way, I will be very lucky to find my way to the 50th mile marker much less the 500th within 30 days. lol

Anyway enough about me, this is a very compelling story that explores the figurative and literal ghosts that two walkers encounter during their journey. Needless to say, the setting is pretty powerful and there are a lot of interesting historical facts bandied about. I would describe the story itself as kind of a slow continuous burner in which the suspense builds and builds and builds until it reaches that final climatic showdown at the end of the book, and at the end of the Way....

A definite must read!
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Daniel is walking the Camino de Santiago with his wife’s ashes in his backpack which he plans to spread along the way. Daniel is a man tortured with grief and guilt over the death of his wife and hopes to find some sort of release during his pilgrimage.  Daniel is Irish born but has lived in New Jersey for several years. His father is pressuring him to come home to run the farm which has been in the family for centuries. Another reason Daniel wants time to reflect. 
I love the author’s use of the Irish accent when he’s talking to Ginny, the young woman he walks part of the way with - made me chuckle every time he said “feckin”. 
The Camino is something I’ve heard about for years and would love to have done myself. However, now I’m a little long in the tooth.  The author’s description of the Way was wonderful- I felt I was walking alongside Daniel. The people he meets along the road are an interesting bunch. If you like a good ghost story - this is for you - with a murder mystery thrown in. Highly recommended. 
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review
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While at times this "ghost" story seemed somewhat predictable, the absolute beauty of the writing and the sheer moments of unexpected surprise that kept me on my toes kept me turning every last page. Daniel is walking the Camino de Santiago, something I'd not heard of prior to reading this story, and it sounds like an absolutely grueling and spirit purging trek. He's walking with his wife Petra's ashes, and carrying a metric ton of guilt. We don't find out why until the end, but we know the entire time that she'd passed young from cancer, and the guilt was tied to that. On the trail, he runs into Ginny from California, and Rob, a very pleasant and sweet Dutchman, and Mark a swine of an Englishman who will go on to play a huge role in this story. While on the trail with Ginny, they keep running into the vision?, specter, maybe of a rotting woman (the first description of her is incredibly confusing and makes her head sound disproportionately larger than the rest of her body). He gets separated from Ginny here, and continues to over, and over, and over again throughout the story, which is part of the predictability of story that I was talking about, and when you start to get clued in that something isn't quite right here with this Ginny character. Rob and Mark start dropping clues that something isn't quite right with this entire journey, and Daniel would do well to heed the clues. 

So that's the synopsis. It leads to a pretty climactic and then somewhat sad, in my opinion, ending. I can't give any of that away without ruining the whole story, but one character's story is nicely wrapped up while another's is kind of a horrifying end, again, IMO. The author's attention to detail in this book leaves nothing to the imagination in the best way possible. It's eloquently written, rich in both character and detail, and was mostly a pleasure to read. It veered into horror story at some parts, but I like a good horror story every now and then so it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. All in all it was both a scary and beautiful ghost story.
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I was given an ArC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley.
This was one of the best ghost stories I have read in some time. Highly recommend it.
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Two things immediately attracted me to this book: 1) The setting – I have walked a part of the Camino de Santiago myself and was eager to revisit this wonderful place through a book; and 2) The part of the blurb that reads “The lines start to blur between reality and madness, between truth and the lies we tell ourselves.” I’m a bit of a sucker for books that straddle the thin line between reality and madness, and when it also involves some ghostly activity I am sold!

I’m happy to say that the book delivered on all its promises and more. It starts off innocently enough. Daniel, an Irish expat now living in the US is walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Northern Spain to find a place to spread the ashes of his wife Petra, who died of cancer the previous year. They had wanted to make this trip together, so he thinks it will be a fitting journey to honour Petra, reflect on their marriage and come to terms with his loss before he has to go back to Ireland to take over the family farm. On a lonely mountain pass, Daniel meets another pilgrim, a mysterious young woman called Ginny, who asks if she can walk part of the trail with him. A hiker has recently disappeared on the trail, and young single females have been warned of the dangers of walking alone, so the request is not unreasonable. It is common on the Camino to make acquaintances and join in with others for part of the journey, then lose sight of them only to meet up again later. So even though neither Daniel nor Ginny don’t seem particularly eager for company, they end up teaming up for some stretches of The Way. 

At this point you may think that the story sounds very much like the famous movie THE WAY with Martin Sheen, but be assured that this is where the similarity ends. Because very soon after their first meeting, Daniel and Ginny have a horrific encounter with a frightful creature that lurks in a deserted cornfield in the dark. Daniel is sure they are being followed. But by whom? Person or ghost? Or the demons that haunt him after Petra’s death?

This was such a great read! Having walked some of the Camino, I could vividly picture the scenery and relate to the hardships of the long lonely hikes, but also the sometimes mystical atmosphere of this ancient countryside. Many of Daniel’s experiences (luckily not the scary ones) reflected my own feelings on the trail, and I thought how rare it is to find a book that so honestly describes the joys and woes of hiking, right down to the blisters and the reality of sharing a hostel room with fifty other smelly travellers. The author has totally nailed this setting, and even if you have never set foot on Spanish soil or hiked a mile in your life, you will soon be swept away on this great adventure. 

I loved the way the novel soon turns dark and more sinister, and unexplained things start happening. With Daniel grieving and in a state of emotional unrest, I was never sure if the air of danger and menace was purely in his imagination, or if there was indeed something evil afoot. The ancient, spiritual path combined with this ever- present aura of evil made for some tense reading, and I could not tear myself away! There were parts of the book were I felt trapped in a nightmare, my own mind unravelling just like Daniel’s. It was all so brilliantly done. One minute there was the bright side of the journey, the sunshine, the beautiful landscape, the quiet reflection and the social aspect of connecting with other pilgrims. And then there was the dark side, the eerie sightings, the sense of danger and menace, the personal demons that come out in the dark and the quiet to torment the unaware traveller. Yes, the trail does have that effect, that soporific meditative monotony of walking that can clear the stage for all the suppressed emotions to bubble to the surface. I loved it, and it was obvious that the author had walked the walk in order to talk the talk.

PETRA’S GHOST is an original, authentic and heartfelt book that both tugged on my heartstrings and threw everything into disarray I had considered reality. It is dark and scary at times, and the mystery at the heart of it had me eagerly turning the pages. This is one book I could not put down! It’s not easy to find books that feature hiking as the backdrop to a mystery (combining two of my favourite things), especially where the author manages to paint so realistic a picture, so I am thrilled to have come across this one. Highly recommended to anyone who is looking for a compelling mystery with a ghostly element that will mess with your mind but also tug at your heartstrings. I loved it and hope to read more from this author in future.
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