I was having a major sort out of all of my TBR when Justine Picardie’s nonfiction book ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ caught my eye, which I have had in the TBR pile for years and years. I had oddly been having a chat with one of my friends about spiritualism and my encounters with mediums, of which there have been a few, and so I thought that maybe this book and its subject matter might be just the thing I could do with reading at the moment. It could equally have been the exact thing not to read at the moment but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.
Ruth Picardie died of breast cancer in September 1997. A well known journalist she chronicled her time living with breast cancer for the Observer magazine which her sister, writer and journalist Justine Picardie, was working for at the time and encouraged. ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is Justine’s account of a year, from Good Friday in 2000 to Easter Monday 2001, in which she decided to see if she could contact the spirit of Ruth in some way and come to terms furthermore with her untimely death and the grief and loss still very much at the heart of her life since her sisters passing.
With a book such as ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ it is really hard to try and compare it with anything else you have read. In the form of diary entries Justine lets us into the world of the many mediums she visits and investigates things such as EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) and automatic writing in her venture to try and contact Ruth in some way. This is all rather fascinating, if fascinating is the right word, especially when so desperate to talk to her sister she even enrols in a school for mediums to see if she can communicate with Ruth herself and try and see if the voice of Ruth she gets in her head is her own self projections, she freely admits that she has an ‘internal psychologist’ analysing what she says and thinks, or is it actually the spirit of her sister.
You can probably guess already that ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is much more than just a nonfiction account of Picardie seeing if there is an afterlife or not and indeed if we can communicate with it or not. It is also a book very much about grief and the process that we have to go through in order to grieve ourselves as well as how other people deal with it. Her husband at the time she writes, Neill, loses his sister, the singer Kirsty MacColl, and deals with his own grief in a very different way. She also looks at how her father, who leads talks in Kabbalah, deals with it and looks at religion and if it is
The honesty with which the book is written can sometimes be incredibly raw and quite difficult to read, though I do urge you all to read it, as there are moments when Justine portrays not only those around her, but also herself, in some very unflattering lights. Yet this is what we are like with grief, we can become internal or go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum being incredibly audibly, and rather angrily, vocal about how we feel. I really admired Picardie for doing this and being brave enough both to write about her sister’s death and how it left her feeling and how she dealt with it. I don’t know if many could write so honestly, with such emotion and also, it should be mentioned, with such wit too and without any judgement on the people she meets who deal with the afterlife, or possibly do, along the way.
I think ‘If the Spirit Moves You’ is a rather incredible book. Due to everything going on it could have been a slightly bad choice of timing reading wise but actually it was a consolation in some ways. I did have to laugh as I took it to Grans last week and after leaving it on the side without thinking, which could have proved very tactless; Gran spotted it and asked me all about it. Interestingly she said ‘Simon, when I am gone, don’t waste your time seeing those people. You’ll know if and when I am there.’ I told her I wouldn’t mind if she haunted me, depending what mood she was in or what I was up to because we always have that hope don’t we?
Like I said, a definite recommendation from me. It has made me want to read Ruth Picardie’s ‘Before I Say Goodbye’ too.