Book Review: These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card (ARC)

These Ghosts Are Family

Author: Maisy Card

Publication Date: 03 March 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Literary/Historical Fiction

Pages: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A transporting debut novel that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend.

And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.

These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the house boy who loved Vera, whose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.

These Ghosts Are Family explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is an engrossing portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret. This electric and luminous family saga announces the arrival of a new American talent.

First off, let me say that for a book that is less than 300 pages, These Ghosts Are Family definitely packs a punch!

These Ghosts Are Family is a harrowing account of how one man’s lies and betrayals affected those around him. Abel Paisley was unhappily married to Vera. When his employer mistakenly declares him dead in a tragic work accident rather than his partner who actually died, Abel decides to assume the life of Stanford Solomon, abandon his wife and two kids, and start anew.

I”ll be honest, before I even opened this book, I was convinced that I already knew the kind of man that Abel must be based off of his decision, which was naive on my part. This book was eye-opening, authentic, raw, and honest. The author manages to tackle a myriad of issues such as the complexities of family, racism, plantation life, and slavery. By the end, my heart broke for each of these characters as it became painfully clear how generational trauma can not only affect your past but your future as well.

Overall, this is an incredible debut that really makes you wonder about your familial skeletons. If you go back far enough in your DNA, would you be proud of what you find, or does something more sinister lurk beneath the surface?

thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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