Summary and book reviews of A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Mitchell

A Reunion of Ghosts

by Judith C. Mitchell

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith C. Mitchell X
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith C. Mitchell
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan

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About this Book

Book Summary

Three wickedly funny sisters. One family's extraordinary legacy. A single suicide note that spans a century...

Meet the Alter sisters - Lady, Vee, and Delph - three delightfully witty, complicated women who live together in their family's apartment on the Upper West Side. Though they love each other fiercely, being an Alter isn't easy. Bad luck is in their genes, passed down through the generations. But no matter what curves life throws at these siblings, they always have a wisecrack—and each other.

Now, in the waning days of 1999, as the century comes to an end, Lady, Vee, and Delph decide that their time is up, too. First, they must write a note: a mesmerizing accounting of their lives that stretches back decades, to the brilliant scientist - their great grandfather - whose sinister legacy has defined them.

Smart, heartbreaking, and completely original, Reunion of Ghosts is an epic story of three unforgettable women and one exceptional family, and a magnificent saga of the twentieth century itself.

Excerpt
A Reunion of Ghosts

From a distance the tattoo wrapped around Delph's calf looks like a serpentine chain, but stand closer and it's actually sixty-seven tiny letters and symbols that form a sentence—a curse:

the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the 3rd & 4th generations

We are that fourth generation: Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter, three sisters who share the same Riverside Drive apartment in which they were raised; three women of a certain age, those ages being, on this first day of summer 1999, forty-nine, forty-six, and forty-two. We're also seven fewer Jews than a minyan make, a trio of fierce believers in all sorts of mysterious forces that we don't understand, and a triumvirate of feminists who nevertheless describe ourselves in relation to relationships: we're a partnerless, childless, even petless sorority consisting of one divorcee (Lady), one perpetually grieving widow (Vee), and one spinster—that would be Delph...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

One of Mitchell's conceits is to counterbalance the depressing aspects of her situations with just enough humor to avoid sounding maudlin. One of the most cleverly told stories I've come across in a very long time, despite the fact that some of the eras and subjects discussed are practically dramatic clichés.   (Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

Full Review (655 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

For the Alter sisters, living with the guilt of the generations, there is only one way out… This novel is a carefully crafted, thought-provoking examination of history past and present as seen through the eyes of a complex yet humble family.

Library Journal

While the dark theme may not appeal to some readers, this serious study of a very odd family has its darkly humorous side

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Moving nimbly through time and balancing her weightier themes with the sharply funny, fiercely unsentimental perspectives of her three protagonists - each distinct, yet also, as their name suggests, at "different stages ofa single life" - Mitchell's fictional suicide note is poignant and pulsing with life force.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. For the Alters, life has been a seemingly endless series of tragedies; for us, the tragedy is that this stunning novel inevitably comes to an end.

Author Blurb Anthony Doerr, New York Times bestselling author of All The Light We Cannot See
This is a triumphant, beautiful, and devastating novel about coincidences, family, and the sins of our fathers.

Author Blurb Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia
Judith Claire Mitchell understands what's at the marrow of our funny bones: that humor lives in darkness, that our families are our curses and our blessings, that great pain can beget great warmth and love.

Author Blurb Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers
A rich portrait of a complicated family, at turns violent and hilarious, shot through with love and death and the scars that reappear generation after generation.

Reader Reviews

Barbara

Clever Amazing Book
A Reunion of Ghosts is a novel of wordplay, dark comedy (tragedy, gloom, morbidity) and absurdity mixed with historical fiction. What a zany combination! A series of coincidences prompts three sisters: Vee, Lady and Delph, the 4th generation of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The First Person Plural - Why We Use It

Greek ChorusAs noted in my review, one unique aspect of Judith Claire Mitchell's A Reunion of Ghosts is her use of the first person plural literary voice. According to most sources, this point of view dates back to ancient Greece and its famous Greek choruses, which spoke in unison as a group. With such a rich history, you might think more authors would be writing using this perspective. However, Laura Miller in her 2004 article in The New York Times, notes that it is difficult to pull off and has many drawbacks: "You could say that the history of Western literature so far has been a journey from the first-person plural to the first-person singular, the signature voice of our time." Still, this isn't stopping writers from employing it, and recently ...

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