Diana and Miguel have a violent past, but while Diana wants to put it all behind her, Miguel is far from repentant for his crimes. His mother, Pilar, sees only the good in her son and does not understand why Diana might want to get away from him. Catalina, Miguel's mistress, is more open to his fiery nature, but both she and his wife know they must protect his fifteen-year-old daughter, Heena. His anger is most visible through his homophobia; he has murdered a gay couple before, so as the life of Aaron gets closer to his - who has just married his partner Ashish - it's only a matter of time before conflict appears.
The characters are vivid however. Miguel is a detestable central figure, but makes for a suitably compelling antagonist. But for what is seemingly such a feminist book, it speaks volumes that his is the voice that resounds the most. The female characters, despite their differences, seem to form a united front against this vicious man. Even Diana and Catalina, although opposed as love rivals, cannot seem to bear to dislike one another when they both hate the man they love so much. As such, this is a fascinating commentary on how people can become trapped in abusive relationships, controlled by the grip of an all-powerful monster. Though reprehensible in his actions, Miguel holds a certain charm as well, which is probably what makes him all the more terrifying.
Thematically, Filled With Ghosts is a veiled study of guilt. Diana is riddled with it, whilst Miguel refuses to accept it. Heena is oblivious to it, while Tila has absorbed it. Pilar is in denial of it, while Aaron is in danger from it. And Catalina is the victim who cannot escape its effects. Vividly portraying a group of women living in fear of the dominant man, the novella is also a study of the damage masculinity can cause. Miguel is terrified of letting his machismo slip, the threat of that which undermines it is too much for him to bear. Surrounded by women, he refuses to be softened by them, instead ploughing forward like a juggernaut to revel in his power and cement his superiority. The final sentence of the book attempts to challenge this, but the preceding chapters suggest there is little that can... so the reader can't help but wonder where Miguel has come from. Because men here seem to be the enemy; dangerous, volatile and fiery. So when the last page is turned with its inevitably ambiguous ending, I couldn't help but wonder: is the only thing that could stop this man an equally dangerous man? One passage explores whether the world would be better run by women, concluding that it is power that corrupts, not gender; but what is it that gave Miguel his power in the first place? His manhood? The weakness of his wife? His charm? It's this question that made me keep turning the page and it's this that goes frustratingly unanswered.