I have written before about Alan Lightman’s first novel, Einstein’s Dreams which was an international best seller and I book I really found intriguing. In that book, a fictional Albert Einstein is a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. In each of the book’s 30 chapters, we read about one particular dream about time that Einstein may have had during this period.

I also read Lightman’s book, The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

But the book of his that caught my attention most recently was Ghost .

The protagonist is David Kurzweil who works in a bank, lives in a rooming house, enjoys books and likes quiet walks by the lake. His simple life gets disrupted when he is fired and he takes a temporary position at a mortuary.

That is where he encounters his ghost. The experience changes all his relationships (estranged wife, girlfriend, mother) and he finds himself at the heart of a public controversy over the existence of the supernatural.

I have always wanted to see a ghost – even more than seeing an alien or UFO. An alien coming out of a spacecraft would prove life elsewhere in the universe, but the ghost would prove a life for us after this one.

Where do you stand on the physical world versus the spiritual world?

It’s a question the book asks. It also asks you to consider skepticism and faith, the natural and the supernatural, even science and religion.

When the novel opens, David says, “I saw something. I think I saw something impossible.” The ghost is just a “vapor” emanating from a corpse. It’s not a horror film terror or special effect.

And the novel ends with the question “Is something true if it happens only once?”

Alan Lightman’s site at M.I.T.