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A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
  

A Reunion of Ghosts

Family Drama   Literary Fiction   Relationship Stories   eBook Favourites   eBook Favourites   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

April 2015 eBook of the Month.

Magnificent and heartbreaking, A Reunion of Ghosts is an epic novel about three unforgettable women, bound to each other and their remarkable family through the blessings and the burdens bestowed by blood. One of them has terminal cancer. All agree to commit suicide when the illness becomes unbearable. They have a family history of suicide. Stepping back a generation further their great grandfather invented mustard gas and they believe that because of this they are cursed. Divided into three parts, with the family relationships and their history totally fascinating, the sisters themselves are rather self-absorbed, obsessed with suicide and insistent that random events were not so, but predetermined by the behaviour of ancestors.The style is amusing so a potentially morose subject is often treated in a comic manner making the conclusion more tragic.

If you like Judith Claire Mitchell you might also like to read books by Sarah Waters, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jessie Burton.

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Synopsis

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

Three wickedly funny sisters. One family's extraordinary legacy. A single suicide note that spans a century. A heartbreaking, compulsively readable literary masterpiece. Meet the Alter sisters: Lady, Vee and Delph. These three mordantly witty, complex women share their family's apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They love each other fiercely, but being an Alter isn't easy. Bad luck is in their genes, passed down through the generations. Yet no matter what life throws at these siblings, they always have a wisecrack - and each other. In the waning days of 1999, the sisters decide it's time to close the circle of the Alter curse. But first, as the world counts down to the dawn of a new millennium, Lady, Vee and Delph must write the final chapter of a saga generations in the making - one that is inexorably intertwined with that of the twentieth century itself. Unspooling threads of history, personal memory and family lore, they weave a mesmerising account of their lives that stretches back decades to their great-grandfather, a brilliant scientist whose professional triumph became the sinister legacy that defines them.

Reviews

'What if the man who invented chemical weapons was also a grandfather, and what if his great-grandchildren grew up to be three hilarious, introverted, deeply-haunted sisters? And what if those sisters co-wrote a fascinating, funny, and deeply sad 350-page suicide note? Then you'd have A Reunion of Ghosts. This is a triumphant, beautiful, and devastating novel about coincidences, family, and the sins of our fathers.'
Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See

'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.'
Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers

'The Alter sisters are mordant, wry and crystalline in wit and vision; it is a tremendous pleasure to rocket through generations of their family histories with them. 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.'
Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia

About the Author

Judith Claire Mitchell

Judith Claire Mitchell, author of 'The Last Day of the War', is an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, she currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, the artist Don Friedlich.

Below is a Q&A with this author.

What I’m reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

What I’m listening to: I’m tempted to lie and name some super cool contemporary musician, but the truth is I tend to listen to Cole Porter and the Gershwins and classic Broadway musicals—that sort of thing. I don’t know—maybe my mother played this kind of music while I was in the womb. I also like anything Stephen Sondheim. I’ve been on a Company kick this week. Here’s to the ladies who lunch!

What I’m watching: I don’t watch much TV, but I’ve succumbed to the 5th season of Downton Abbey and will watch the last season of Mad Men whenever it decides to return. Otherwise, it’s pretty much cat videos and clips from The Daily Show.

Favourite word: In terms of its sound, I’m fond of pomplemousse, the French word for grapefruit. In terms of its meaning, I like the Yiddish word mensch.

Favourite song: “I’m Still Here.” Sondheim, from Follies. It’s sung by an older woman who was once a big star and is now coping with the anonymity that comes with aging. It’s specific to performers, but I hear it as a kind of feminist anthem. I like to belt it out when nobody’s home.

Living person you most admire: Marilynne Robinson. She was my teacher in grad school and she continues to inspire me through her novels and essays. She writes about the human capacity for goodness in a way that is profound and wise, but that also keeps the reader engaged with the plot and characters. I know my writing will never hold a candle to hers, but I do aspire to being as caring and generous a teacher to my students as she was to me.

The trait you most deplore in yourself: My memory. My horrible, sieve-like memory. Do not get mugged in front of me. Unless we go to court within five minutes, I will be useless as an eye witness.

The trait you most deplore in others: Talking during movies.

The book you wish you’d written: E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. When I first read it many, many years ago, I was struck by the blending of fictional and nonfictional characters, the beautifully-crafted yet accessible prose, the use of history to comment on the present, and the riveting plot that is at once specific to the characters and a broad examination of US culture. I think—I hope—you can see my own attempts to do similar things in A Reunion of Ghosts.

The book that everyone should read: Any book by Thich Nhat Hanh.

The book you’d like republished: I was about to say During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, Joan Chase’s 1983 debut about cousins growing up in Ohio, but when I looked it up I saw that The New York Review of Books has recently republished it. So now I don’t have an answer to this question. Thanks a lot, New York Review of Books.

Writing ritual: Is avoidance a ritual?

Best advice ever received: Best writing advice was from another teacher, Frank Conroy: “The project is nothing; the process is everything.” Best living advice was from Claire Mitchell, my mom: “Life is so full of sorrow and suffering that when the chance for happiness comes along, you should grab it with both fists.”

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Book Info

Publication date

26th March 2015

Author

Judith Claire Mitchell

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Author's Website

judithclairemitchell.com/

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Publisher

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Format

Hardback
400 pages

Categories

Family Drama
Literary Fiction
Relationship Stories
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9780007594344

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