I’ve mentioned before that I love the nonfiction books I’ve read by Sally M. Walker. Ghost Walls (Lerner, 2014) is no exception. With Ms. Walker’s conversational style of writing and clear explanations of both science and history, Ghost Walls digs into the anthropological history of a seventeenth-century house in Maryland, giving life to a house that fell into ruins hundreds of years ago.
Ms. Walker’s book outlines the history of the occupants of St. John’s House. But her history is not based only on the historical documents of their time. Rather, she bases the history of the house on the things that have been uncovered on the site of the home. Remember, the house itself has been gone for more than 200 years already! The stains in the dirt, the layers of the dirt, the fractional portions of pottery, and graves of animals tell the stories of those who lived at St. John’s House and corroborate the historical record of the early years of Maryland’s colony.
For example, a resident of the home brought up the dangers of the wolves in the neighborhood at a community meeting in the mid-1600s. An archaeological dig reveals two sheep remains in graves near the home, one with evidence of distress as if it had been attacked by an animal.
Although I am not an expert on anthropology or archaeology, reading a book by Sally Walker means that I need not be. I always finish the book with satisfaction, having learned much about science and history. Students of American History likewise will be fascinated by the facts that can be learned from the “ghost walls” of a house that existed for only 75 and is now long gone, save for subtle clues.
Note: I received a digital review copy.