Trauma and Healing in Ghost Species

by Sevgi Osman

In James Bradley’s Ghost Species, Kate and Jay are recruited by billionaire Davis Hucken to recreate a different species of human being through engineering. After they find a surrogate, a neanderthal with human features named Eve is born, and Kate’s world changes. From an early age, Kate did not have a healthy and happy childhood. Her mother became an alcoholic when she was just thirteen. But thirteen was also the age when Kate began to take refuge in her own abilities, when she refused to meet up with friends because she had books, computers, and a lot to study for her tests. Growing up, she refused to register on any social media platforms, so her mother would not be able to find her anywhere. Kate left home and suddenly began to feel free again. When she met Jay at university, they instantly became friends and started dating soon after, but as they grew older, they wanted to try to have a baby. The aftermath of Kate’s pregnancy, the miscarriage, has shattered her in many ways. As a reader, we get the sense that Kate wanted to heal her inner child and trauma by being a great mother to her own child, something her mother was never able to do. So when Eve is born, Kate immediately asks Jay if she can take care of her. As soon as Jay explains to her that such a thing is not possible and that she has to be taken care of by specialists, Kate gets the feeling that Eve will always remain an experiment, which results in her running away with a very young Eve. It is clear that Kate does not want Eve to feel like an experiment or for Eve to have a bad childhood like she did. In those moments when Kate spends time with Eve, she begins to heal from her past. Eve and Kate complement one another: “(…) when Eve laughs Kate feels the dopamine rush of love.” (p.70). It seems as though Kate’s childhood affected how she treats her children when she’s a mother. Even if she’s not the biological mother of Eve, she sees her as her own daughter because she wants to help her be happy and feel appreciated.

Eve, from a young age, is taken care of by Kate. Although Kate takes good care of her and makes sure she stays hidden from the outside, Eve is very lonely and isolated. Her being hidden in Kate’s pram and having no social contact would worsen her behaviour towards other humans in the future. In the chapter “foundling,” Kate remembers her childhood when they spent a night at a motel, because it reminded her of when she used to stay there with her mother.

Eve has always been different from other human beings, but her childhood impacted her adult life as well. It is explained that “[h]er capacity to manage social relationships is similarly less developed” (p.122). As for her natural abilities, she is also a slow speaker since her expressive language is slower. When confronted by Cassie, Eve got angry really fast, but when Cassie did not give up talking to her and had patience, Eve eventually gave in (p.128). After her childhood, Eve thinks about her life again and even if she is used to the isolation she still ponders: “(…) what will happen when Eve is older. How will she find friends? Develop relationships?” (p.134), it is clear that Kate keeping her isolated for so long was not good for her. Throughout the book, it is explained that Eve might grow up physically, but not psychologically. She still remains playful and witty like a child and gets angry easily when she has to concentrate to behave rationally. For example, when Kate forgot to get her raspberry-flavoured jelly, Eve gets angry easily, showing that her mentality has not developed as fast as a normal human being would. Her angriness often leaves her with the thought that she is misunderstood, but Kate always forgives her and helps her out. As a teenager, she cannot help but feel ugly because she doesn’t look like the other kids: “Is she the creature she sees online? Ugly, hulking, misshapen?” (p.178). She can see how other teenagers live for example by going to parties, but she never attends one herself. When she sees Sami for the first time again, she is again confronted with the fact that she feels isolated and lonely. Only when she starts making new friends does Eve start to socialize more and feel like a normal human being. Her path of healing begins by socializing with new people. She feels especially close to Lukas, since he knows how her loneliness feels, which is probably also why she agrees to stay with him after her mother (Kate) dies.

Both Eve and Kate find a way to heal their respective trauma, but they will always carry a piece of their trauma with them and remember that part of their childhood. Kate succeeds at being a better mother than her own mother and Eve succeeds in finding people who accept her as she is and make her feel less lonely.