If you have ever found yourself in an extended conversation with an intelligent, intense, preteen who is aware of his surroundings, the sort of kid who loves his parents but sees them without illusions, a kid who has close friends, a full but slightly complicated life, and opinions and insights into absolutely everything, then The Ghost in Apartment 2R is a must-read. Street-savvy thirteen-year-old Danny takes readers on a whirlwind trip through his life in a section of Brooklyn which has grown into an expensive and desirable neighborhood that his parents could never have afforded had they not already been living there for years. They cope with the economic stresses of keeping up with just about everybody else in the area in slightly unconventional ways that contribute additional quirky experiences to days already filled with a lot going on.
A light Jewish sensibility pervades the book. Danny, aided by his best friends Natalie and Gus, attempts to track down the seemingly ghostly inhabitant of the recently vacated bedroom of Danny’s brother who is off at college. Family life is appealingly and wholesomely described. Some of Danny’s explanations of things Jewish, although delightful and well-written, carry a slightly off-kilter understanding of some customs (seeing a “Hasidic Jewish family” in a nonkosher café, assuming most Orthodox Jews speak Yiddish, a folklore-based understanding of a mezuzah) but the story is rich and compelling, and presents a nuanced and layered feeling of neighborhood warmth and vitality, as well as showing a picture of a close, loving Jewish family.
Among other interesting details, the story addresses ways in which assorted cultures view ghosts and the supernatural, and it encourages the important, and often neglected, value of prowling through libraries to garner information.
Award-winning journalist and freelance writer, Helen Weiss Pincus, has taught memoir writing and creative writing throughout the NY Metro area to senior citizens and high school students. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Record, The Jewish Standard, and other publications. She recently added “Bubby” to her job description.