“The Ghost Way” by Lance Smith tells the story of the Ramanakajja family – father Jak, mother Eot and their four daughters – and how the family lived for a brief time on “The Ghost Way,” or land that is supposedly forever doomed to be roamed by demons. Set in Thailand, and written as a 100% true story, the book has a lot to offer.
There were quite a few things I enjoyed about the book. As someone who is admittedly not familiar with Thai culture at all, the descriptions of holidays, beliefs, and ceremonies was very interesting. I found myself googling Thai phrases, food, and drinks that were mentioned in the narrative, in order to learn more about them. I’m the type of person that needs to be able to fully imagine the scene as it’s being set, so I also inadvertently learned a lot about the Thai landscape.
The story itself is fascinating. Taken at face value, it’s honestly terrifying.
However, with that said, I cannot fully buy into the story as being completely true for several reasons. And I feel as though it is important to mention this as Smith is careful with his words. It is not “based on a true story” but instead written simply as “a true story,” not only a few times in the book, but also on the front cover.
At the end of the book you find out the story was told to Smith 30 years later, with remarkable clarity and attention to detail. It seems as if even Smith knows how unreal it sounds and tries to convince the reader otherwise. (“Hair stood up on Eot’s arms when she started to speak and her eyes never blinked once or looked away. I realized at that moment that no detective or polygraph could ever doubt her word.”)
While I of course believe in the paranormal, the way the story is presented is over the top. Presented as fact are multiple sightings and interactions with demons, including one scene where a woman has sex with a demon. In another scene, a large fish escapes through a fishing net by “melting” through it and reforming itself outside the net.
In addition to the family’s experiences, which are recounted 30 years later as being complete truth, Smith also includes stories of non-family members. One story in particular that stands out is that of a character who encounters a demon while driving and plunges over a cliff. With no mention of witnesses to this event, how can this be claimed as truth?
Finally, several of the experiences the family had in the beginning of the book seemed based entirely on the phenomenon known as sleep paralysis.
The book is a translated narrative, so the writing style is not quite what you’d expect. It moves quickly, and at times appears disjointed, though I feel this does not take away from the story, and may even enhance the frantic feeling the author wishes to convey.
All in all, I did enjoy reading the book, though from the very beginning I took everything stated as fact with a large grain of salt.