3 Sentence Summary
The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre is a gripping novel which takes you into the world of Helena, a terminally ill novelist with unfinished business. With the help of a ghostwriter she once clashed with, Helena unveils shocking truths about her past, her guilt, and the tragic events that shaped her life. This captivating story explores the power of redemption, forgiveness, and the complexity of human nature.
Summary Read Time: Less than 4 minutes
Actual Book Length: 321
First Published in: 2017
Below is the detailed yet quick The Ghostwriter summary:
In the solitary realm of Helena Ross, death is knocking. A renowned author, living in quiet solitude, she maintains contact with just one person, her agent Kate, though their connection isn’t particularly deep. When the grim prognosis of terminal brain cancer is delivered with a three-month deadline, Helena takes on a final, ambitious project. She decides to encapsulate her life’s journey and the veiled secrets surrounding her husband’s demise in a novel.
Despite her determination, Helena soon faces the harsh reality of her dwindling strength and time. Recognizing that she may not complete her magnum opus, she decides to hire a ghostwriter. The choice lands on her nemesis, Marka, a writer whom she abhors for her harsh criticism and seemingly idyllic life. Yet, Helena knows Marka’s literary prowess is unparalleled, making her the perfect candidate for the job.
The plot thickens when Helena and Kate approach Marka, only to be greeted by a man. The astonishing revelation that Marka is, in fact, a male writer named Mark leaves Helena reeling. Despite her initial distrust, Helena extends a generous offer to Mark. He agrees to reside with her to complete the novel, an arrangement far from what Helena had anticipated.
In the process of co-writing, an unlikely camaraderie develops between Helena and Mark. Their bond, woven through shared writing sessions and Mark’s persistent care, contrasts with Helena’s stubborn determination. A trip to Mark’s home triggered by the birth of his cow reveals more about Mark’s life. His wife’s death from cancer and the root of his resentment towards Helena – a harsh critique she penned that cost Mark a publication deal.
The narrative trajectory of Helena’s life story is plotted through her outlines, which Mark develops into the novel. However, upon reaching the chapter of her husband’s death, Helena grapples with the confession. Mark advises her to write this part herself, believing in her unique perspective and seeing it as a potential closure for Helena.
Helena’s life unfolds in the pages, from blissful pre-marital days with Simon to the arrival of their daughter, Brittany. Initially averse to motherhood, Helena grows to love Brittany, despite her writing often taking precedence. Her erratic behavior and solitary writing hours raise concerns about her mental health among Simon and her mother, further straining their relationship. Regular arguments between Helena and Simon, arising from their contrasting parenting styles and Simon’s extravagant spending, paint a troubled picture of their union.
The narrative takes a sinister turn as Helena stumbles upon damning tapes revealing Simon’s heinous acts with a minor. Horrified, Helena decides to expose Simon, leading to a tense encounter that results in her being locked in the basement. Inspired by a plot from her previous novel, Helena fills the house with a lethal gas in a desperate attempt to escape.
The climax is heartrending as Helena returns home to find her husband and daughter lifeless, a consequence of her actions. The novel concludes with Helena choosing a peaceful, assisted death. In her will, she leaves substantial funds for the women victimized by Simon, starting with a journalist she had previously dismissed. Helena leaves behind a million dollars, a copy of her manuscript, and a responsibility to find the other victims, ultimately shedding light on her own complex and tragic life story.