American Ghost (Paperback)

A Novel

By Janis Owens

Scribner, 9781451674651, 304pp.

Publication Date: March 12, 2013

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (10/9/2012)

List Price: 19.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A complex and compulsively readable novel about how unresolved family history and the racial tensions of the past threaten a love affair between two young Floridians.

Jolie Hoyt is a good Southern girl living in Hendrix, a small Florida Panhandle town. All too aware of her family’s closet full of secrets and long-held distrust of outsiders, Jolie throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region.

Jolie and Sam fall recklessly in love, but their affair ends abruptly when Sam is discovered to have pried too deeply into Hendrix’s dark racial history and he becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence. Twelve years later, Jolie and Sam are forced to revisit the unresolved issues of their young love and finally shed light on the ugly history of Jolie’s hometown. A complex and compulsively readable Southern saga, American Ghost is a richly woven exploration of how the events of our past haunt our present.

About the Author

Janis Owens is the author of three previous novels and a regional cookbook. The only daughter of a Pentecostal preacher turned insurance salesman, she inherited her love of storytelling from her parents. She lives in Newberry, Florida.

Praise For American Ghost: A Novel

"Part-thriller, part romance, and based on an actual event in the author's hometown, this wrenching novel is a fine example of southern storytelling."

"Owens brings the vibrancy of a small Southern community to bear on a gothic tale."

"A taut yarn about breaking silence."
--Good Housekeeping

“Owens weaves complex narrative strands together in a captivating story abundant with historical context and characterizations that reflect the foibles of human nature.”

"The past haunts the present in this engaging... offering inspired by actual events."

“A skillfully written, well-researched book…Owens brings a dark period of history to light in a book about Southern Allegiances, racial tensions and shameful acts.”

Owens’ voice [is] so authentic and her characters [are] so alive. Their motivations, reactions and dialogue feel so true, they could-almost be real.”

"Owens’ detailed and well-researched portrait of west Florida bloodlines benefits from her obvious affection for its cast of colorful characters, and her descriptions of small-town life are a joy to read."

"A taut literary thriller, as well as a wrenching meditation on the consequences of denying a dangerous past."

"This compelling novel begins as a love story...but it turns into a thrilling, multilayered mystery and a fearless look at the tragic delusions of American racism."

"American Ghost is equal parts mystery and thriller. While the novel is rooted in a real-life incident,it remains a pure work of fiction in the best sense: a rich portrayal of a small town where the lines between black and white become blurred. Despite its dark subject matter, the novel is infused with light and hope—no small feat,given that [it] gracefully weaves everything from anti-Semitism and hate crimes to first love and family loyalties into the story. American Ghost is sure to resonate with readers long after its stunning final pages."

"American Ghost is part mystery, part history, part anthropology — and all great Southern fiction."