Rating: 3.5 / 5
THESE GHOSTS ARE FAMILY by Maisy Card has been on my TBR now a couple times, so I was glad to finally get to it this month. When I saw that June was Read Caribbean month and that the #ReadTheWorld21 challenge prompt for the month was also Caribbean, I pushed back my read a bit. Of course then I realized I didn’t actually have a copy on any of my platforms as I had thought, so had to go scrambling to find it, but Scribd thankfully came through for me!
THESE GHOSTS ARE FAMILY is a family saga covering multiple generations of a family both beginning with roots in Jamaica and continuing on to present day Harlem. The book begins with Stanford Solomon who is nearing the end of his life. He’s gathering together his daughters, one of whom doesn’t actually know he’s her father. This is because Stanford is actually not Stanford, he is really Abel. As one of two Black men working on a ship, he witnesses the death of Stanford. When the white men on board who can’t tell the two of them apart declare that Abel has been the one killed, Abel decides to let his family believe he is dead and he becomes Stanford and goes on to live a new life. As they gather Abel’s first wife Vera, who has recently died and therefore learned of Abel’s deceit is there as well, plotting her revenge.
This is a difficult book to summarize. From that opening scene, written in a unique second person perspective while jumping between each of the characters, the book continues to move back and forth between characters and time. It touches on issues of racism and slavery, addiction and mental illness, family bonds and more. There are literal ghosts as well as figurative ones haunting this family in the wake of Abel’s decision to become Stanford.
When I saw this book described as being written in the tradition of Yaa Gyasi’s HOMEGOING, I knew that this was a book I needed to read. I can see the comparison to HOMEGOING In the way that the book reads almost like interrelated short stories following different lines of a family. With the time jumps back and forth and the larger number of family tree branches, I didn’t feel quite as drawn into this story. The writing is beautiful and the story kept me engaged, but I did have to sort of re-engage every time the story took a time jump.
I did really appreciate that the author allowed each story to really play out in whatever time it needed. Listening to parts on audio, there were some chapters that were 20 minutes, others lasted a couple hours. I did find that there were sections that I read better in print, so I wound up bouncing back and forth quite a bit between formats.
In the end, this is a book that I feel like there were connections I likely missed. I think I would have benefited from a family tree for this one. There are also portions that veer into the realm of magical realism that I can’t say I fully understood the meaning of, but I think that is okay because I overall really enjoyed the reading experience!
#ReadingWomenChallenge – a book by an author from the Caribbean or India
#ReadTheWorld21 – Caribbean