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Can't Find My Way Home

by Gwynne Garfinkle

$20 (paperback)
$7.95 (e-book) EPUB
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Young actress Joanna Bergman has been guilt-ridden for four years. Her best friend Cynthia Foster died in a firebombing meant to protest a New York draft board near their college in 1971. Jo was supposed to accompany the charismatic Cyn on the night of the bombing but backed out at the last minute. Jo’s new life is complicated enough: she’s falling for her soap opera costar, the philandering Martin Yates, and trying to regain the sense of connection she lost when Cyn died. But then Cyn’s ghost appears, furious with Jo for bailing on her that fateful night and, worse, for going on living without her. As Jo tries to figure out what her friend’s ghost wants from her, she is hurled again and again back to the night of Cyn’s death.

Advance Praise

Garfinkle catches exactly the passionate and reckless moods of the anti-Vietnam War movement among young people in those years, the deadly naiveté, delight in rebellion, and idealistic misunderstanding of where events just had to go from there…. Writing a really good ghost story is a lot harder than it looks. But Garfinkle pulls it off with élan and produces a wonderful story about lives unlived, for one reason or another, shifting perspectives, what (if anything) we owe our dead, and how we reflect each other, hold each other back, and provide the take-off for others’ sprints into maturity.
 —Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Vampire Tapestry and The Holdfast Chronicles

All of us have questions and regrets about things we’ve done, but Jo Bergman is literally haunted by her past. This remarkable novel kept me on tenterhooks as I watched Jo seesaw among the different lives she would have experienced had she made different decisions. Gwynne Garfinkle has nailed both the fraught nature of the 1960s and early 70s and the difficult path of a woman struggling to be her whole self despite the ghosts of her past and the challenges of her present.
 — Nancy Jane Moore, author of For the Good of the Realm and The Weave

Here is a book that took me back in the same way a ghost of her past takes Joanna back, again and again. Gwynne Garfinkle’s ghost story realistically recreates a traumatic moment in America’s past. I was more than impressed with the realism of a period that I personally lived through. Garfinkle asks the reader what would happen if you could go to a pivotal moment in your past and relive it, searching for a different outcome? Would you, could you? In the end would it make it any better? Garfinkle’s deft prose takes you on this journey with suspense and gentleness, tackling both regret and hope with equal sincerity. This book lives not only in the softer side of the horror genre, but as a work that instructs us to confront our own choices and how they irrevocably impact others. If you want a thoughtful and intriguing journey buy this book.
 —Beth Plutchak, author of Liminal Spaces


Garfinkle (People Change) delivers a fascinating, disorienting ghost story set in the 1970s. Actor Joanna Bergman has carried shame and remorse over her friend Cynthia Foster’s death since it happened four years ago. As protestors against the Vietnam War, the duo would have done anything to stop the bloodshed—but when Cynthia and Joanna plotted to blow up a New York City draft board, Joanna backed out at the last minute. Her hesitance spared her life, and Cynthia died in the explosion. Now, the war is over, and Joanna has her first stable acting gig on the daytime soap Hope Springs Eternal and is developing feelings for her costar, Martin Yates. She’s guiltily moving on with her life, until Cynthia’s angry ghost appears to her and forces Joanna to relive that fateful night, turning over alternate choices she could have made and how things might have gone differently. The tale moves swiftly between reality and the paranormal, successfully making the reader question if Cynthia’s ghost is just a projection of Jo’s psyche or something more concrete. Fans of counterculture narratives and ghost stories will want to take a look.  
  —Publishers Weekly, 09/13/2021

I'm old enough that this somewhat nostalgic ghost story worked exceptionally well for me. The protagonist is a woman who - many years earlier - failed to go with a friend to a protest in which she died under circumstances not entirely clear. Now the ghost of her friend has appeared to her and wants closure. Although this is not a particularly original concept for a comparatively gentle ghost story, it is wrapped around a much more compelling story about the frustrations and contradictions of that era, of protesting in general. It examines how we change views on political matters - or at least tactics - over the course of time and it touches upon the tenuous but real connections we retain to friends, even those no longer alive. The protagonist is compelled to relive that fatal night over and over again, each time with subtle - or not so subtle differences. Very moving story.  
  —Critical Mass, Don D'Ammassa, 1/15/2022

Here’s a first novel set in the early 1970s, an era when revolution seemed to be in the air. The protagonist, Joanna, is a young college student in New York City, friends with a group of student radicals. Her best friend, Cynthia, recruits Joanna to help her plant a bomb at a downtown draft board, a protest against the war in Vietnam. But Joanna backs out at the last moment, pleading a case of the flu. When the bomb goes off prematurely, Cynthia is killed, and Joanna is saddled with guilt.

The story picks up a few years later; Joanna, a theater student, has won a role on a popular soap opera. While it’s not her dream acting assignment, it covers the bills, and she’s beginning to feel like a success. Just to complicate things, she’s feeling a strong romantic connection to one of her costars, an older man with a wife and family and a reputation for playing around. And then Cynthia’s ghost appears to her.

Unsurprisingly, the ghost blames Joanna for bailing on the bombing, and even more for carrying on a life without her former best friend. To show her what might have been, the ghost puts Joanna into a series of alternate lives—examples of what might have been if she’d taken some of the other options available to her.

The result is a sort of travelogue through the underground of the early 1970s, with Joanna on the run along with Cynthia and some of their partners in radical protest. At the same time, Joanna’s life on the set of Hope Springs Eternal—the soap opera—is getting knottier, as her fellow actors see her involvement with Martin developing. Some of them try to warn her off the older man, while others hint that she might be endangering her place in the cast of the show. And inevitably, the past and present start mixing together, as Cynthia begins to manifest herself backstage at the soap opera.

Garfinkle has caught the feeling of 1970’s New York with impressive accuracy. She also gives a convincing look behind the scenes of daytime television, with characters who’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ever been around a theatrical production. A real page-turner, especially recommended to anyone who remembers the era.
  —Asimov's SF, Peter Heck, July/August 2022

ISBN: 978-1-61976-212-1 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Jan 2022
paperback 342 pages