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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Mona Lisa, Becoming a Ghost by A.L. Mengel is a work of supernatural fiction that explores ambition, longing, broken promises, and regret from the point of view of an artist named Pedro. Among the living mortals walk the immortals, those who are not susceptible to death by the ravages of time. Pedro becomes enamored with the immortals and their hiding in plain sight and infatuated with one in particular named Antoine. In pursuit of his desire to shed the life he has lived and pivot to the one he believes he wants, he leaves his devoted muse Valentina behind to embark on the journey toward transformation. Still, Valentina, who he once called his Mona Lisa, lingers in his thoughts and Pedro determines he will do anything—anything at all—to get his Valentina back, even if it's not from the realm of the living. “You must learn. You must realize that your decisions, however noble they may seem to you, have consequences.”
Mona Lisa, Becoming a Ghost is entirely unique in the approach A.L. Mengel takes in crafting a supernatural tale as old as death itself: breathing life back into the unliving. Mengel does not reinvent the wheel here but certainly applies a fresh new coat of paint and it is enough to keep a critic pleasantly satiated. Valentina is a continual thread throughout the narrative but is not really featured herself except through the forlorn memories of Pedro. Throughout the entirety of the novel, Pedro works through one means or another to patch together promises made to him that have been broken, alongside patching together his own broken heart at the loss of Valentina, and further still to try to patch Valentina back together with the assistance of immortal magic and a skilled taxidermist--the melancholy that threads the story together is palpable. The most interesting character is not Pedro, but an immortal mentor named Antoine who, frankly, deserves his own novel. Overall, the story and its composition are different, and the twist at the end is unexpected. I would imagine there will be supernatural fans who will find that Mona Lisa, Becoming a Ghost ticks the most important storytelling boxes.