Book Review: These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card

As part of this blog, I hoped to include book reviews of recent books I’ve read. As a former BookTuber and Bookstagrammer, I am slowly getting back into my love for all types of fiction and prose. Thank you for Common Place Books Fort Worth for sending me this Advanced Reader copy.

These Ghosts are Family is one of the most innovative debut novels I’ve come across, and it is a story that I would recommend to anyone who loves generational stories with multiple narratives.

Card’s novel spans over three generations from modern day Harlem to colonial Jamaica. Each section of the novel covers multiple narrators who grapple with their own family heritage and history. The novel begins in Harlem, 2005 with a man named Abel Paisley who fakes his own death and resumes the identity of one of his colleagues, Stanford Solomon. From this point in the story, his children and wives must grapple with a loss of a father and understanding of how it has affected their lives. Not long after, Irene Paisley finds her father in Harlem – Abel, whom she believed to be dead.

Between the narratives of the two families affected by Abel’s decision, Card weaves in a historical narrative of how Abel’s grandson searches for answers of his ancestors in Colonial Jamaica. Card places the reader directly in the perspectives of white characters in Colonial Jamaica who would eventually become the great-great grandparents of Abel and the rest of his family. This is where the narrative diverges into long sections focusing on the members of the Paisley family and the decisions a couple young women make that affect the early part of the narrative. The theme of generational trauma and trauma passed down from slavery is present throughout the narratives, as well as the reverberations of character’s actions across generations.

A glimpse of the cover that beautifully conveys the complex family dynamics, secrets, and ghosts that still linger within the family.

While each of the sections have their distinct narrators and time periods, each of them are tied together through the family tree and themes that preside in each section. Most surprising is perhaps the last few sections – which tie in more supernatural elements into the novel.

For any readers that love interconnecting narratives like myself, this book is deep dive into the complex outcomes one decision can lead do. Card allows each character’s voice to be distinct, while acknowledging the complexities race and lineage play in each character’s lives. It is definitely a book that will keep you thinking long after you read it.

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