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A Reunion of Ghosts: A Novel

A Reunion of Ghosts: A Novel


A Reunion of Ghosts: A Novel

evaluări:
4/5 (9 evaluări)
Lungime:
11 hours
Lansat:
Mar 24, 2015
ISBN:
9780062373816
Format:
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Descriere

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.

A HarperAudio production.

Lansat:
Mar 24, 2015
ISBN:
9780062373816
Format:
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Despre autor

Judith Claire Mitchell, author of the novel The Last Day of the War, is an English professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Mitchell has received fellowships from the James A. Michener/Copernicus Society, Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Wisconsin Arts Board, and elsewhere. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


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  • (2/5)
    This book had a great premise: three forty-something sisters think they are the last generation of a cursed family, so they decide to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve, 1999. There is a lot of backstory about the family’s curses, and it’s interesting…but very slow going. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the suicides are the most lackluster deaths I have ever read in fiction. The end of the story kind of unravels, in a sense - it holds up and makes sense, but it feels like the author just lost interest and wanted to finish the book. And this feeling is passed along to the reader. A very long book, slow going (for me at least), and not one I would recommend.
  • (4/5)
    Surprisingly amusing, but then I've always had a tendency towards black humour. I found this a really good read, being well-written, engaging, intelligent and intriguing. Book club was polarised: some felt the sisters unlikeable due to their not doing anything active to combat the depression/anxiety that plagues their lives. As a long-term sufferer of major depression and anxiety, I fully empathised.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book! A little dark, a little quirky, definitely different! Interesting subject matter about three aging but still relatively young Jewish sisters, inordinately attached to one another. Funny, in some parts even laugh out loud funny, but somewhat profound as well. Touches on the Holocaust as well as Jewish angst and guilt over generational sins, or what were perceived as sins by the sisters. Partly historical as well, although I am not sure what precisely was actually history and what was coming from the author’s fertile imagination!

    All in all, a very good listen, and certainly worth the time! ??
  • (4/5)
    This is a long suicide note left by three sisters who chronicle their family history, complete with all of the horrors associated with it. There are many missed opportunities and too many misinterpretations of their lives, especially by themselves, so the end is almost too predictable, despite moments of hope for another outcome. It is beautifully written but very sad.
  • (4/5)
    We are often told that children become the people you tell them that they are. So if you consistently tell a child she is bad or dumb, she will believe this no matter how untrue it may be. Conversely, a child told she is smart or good will also believe these things to be true about herself. But what if a child is told that she is cursed, drinking in this knowledge with mother's milk, and that she cannot escape the family legacy except through that other dark familial predilection for suicide? Will children believe this as much as children believe these other things? In Judith Claire Mitchell's new novel, A Reunion of Ghosts, they certainly do. Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter are cursed. They are the last of the Alters, the fourth generation of a family plagued by history and suicide. The three sisters are in their forties as the end of the twentieth century approaches and they have decided that they will go out with the millennium. Yes, all three of them intend to commit suicide and finally end the curse that has followed their family since their great-grandfather's scientific discoveries were perverted to evil uses. Their mother told all three of her girls that "the sins of the father are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations" offering them a grim biblical truth as their enduring life philosophy. But they don't just have a life philosophy, they have a death philosophy as well, that of suicide. And if that must be pithily defined, it would surely sound something like: pick your poison and choose your time. The Alter family tree is chock full of suicides (the sisters know because they have a chart posted on the back of one of the bedroom doors detailing each one) but not a one of these long dead souls has ever left a suicide note. This is where the sisters are going off of the family script. This novel is their suicide note, and what a note it is. Before they make their final exit, drinking smoothies no less, Lady, Vee, and Delph want to record their family history all the way back to their great-grandfather and the genesis of everything. Because the novel is a collective suicide note, it is told in the first person plural "we" which lends it an interesting and unusual communal voice. The sisters are all very different and well defined and yet this group telling works wonderfully. The narrative jumps back and forth from the family history, where the Alters are intimately connected to important world history and some of the big names in it, to the sisters' lives both past and present. If a novel about three women intending to commit suicide with the novel itself purporting to be the suicide note sounds incredibly depressing, readers should know that this couldn't be further from the truth. The sisters are witty, quick with a snappy comeback, fond of word play, smart, and entertaining. Certainly they embrace death, but casually and unafraid. There's a fair bit of truly funny gallows humor as they recount the defining tragedies in their own lives and those of their ancestors. And there's been quite a lot of tragedy, some greater and some smaller. Great-grandfather Lenz Alter, the originator of the family curse, is based in part on the real life Fritz Haber, a German Jewish scientist who converted to Christianity and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery synthesizing ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, a process that in turn led to the development of fertilizers and explosives. Considered the father of chemical warfare for his weaponizing of chlorine gas in WWI, another of his discoveries led to Zyklon B, the gas used in the Nazi gas chambers in WWII, and he might or might not have been the first to synthesize the drug Ecstasy. It is with the legacy of Haber's real life accomplishments that the fictional Lenz Alter dooms his family, at least according to the sisters. But the novel is not just the record of one dysfunctional family as its last surviving members troop inexorably towards their own carefully planned deaths in their apartment's Death and Dying Room. There are twists and turns, surprises and shocks too, that ask the question of whether there can ever be redemption or if we are definitively trapped by fate or long-held belief. There are no actual ghosts here but the telling of the tale is indeed a reunion, the collective noun for a group of ghosts, of the ghosts who have haunted the sisters forever. The novel is quirky and rich, literary and accessible. There are a few bits that drag but in general, the sisters and their history are engaging enough to keep the reader engrossed in the story, wondering how it can, and indeed must, end.
  • (5/5)
    LOVED this novel. I think you have to be a product of dysfunction AND appreciate dry humor and self-deprecation. It was so funny at times and even though it was about generations of a family in strife and loathing, it became so evident that the current generation was a family of 3 sisters who loved each other deeply. But no spoiler alert here.
  • (3/5)
    The three Alter sisters are determined to make a suicide pact on New Years Eve, as did the generations of Alters before them. The three sisters, who are all childless and single, reflect back in time through the generations of their family tree, which had a lot of relatives hanging from it. And with one sister terminally ill, they are determined to die together.The sisters dark humor comes through no matter how bad the situation is or was. Offbeat and funny, A good listen with a very original sotryline
  • (5/5)
    A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell is a masterfully written multigenerational story of the Alter sisters and a legacy that began during WWI. The 20th century is rapidly coming to a close and sisters Lady, Vee, and Delph are planning to end their lives, as the custom has been for decades. Their great-grandmother, wife of Lenz Alter, who is loosely based on the real life of Nobel-prize winning chemist Fritz Haber, a German Jew who invented chlorine gas, ended her life. Her son Richard and his children followed in his mother’s footsteps, and now as the 21st century is approaching it is time for the Alter sisters to end their respective lives, but how do three different people compose one suicide note? The Alter sisters are not without their issues, the eldest, Lady, is divorced and her life seemed to stop with the divorce, Vee is in remission, and Delph’s dreams appear to be outside her grasp. The three sisters, while different, are fiercely loyal and their wit, while dark, is brilliantly displayed throughout the book. A Reunion of Ghosts is masterfully written, the characters are endearing, realistic, and stay with the reader long after the book is over, the plot lines and the history behind the curse is slowly revealed in bits and pieces through history and different narrations. Mitchell’s writing is superbly brilliant making the book one this reader could not set down, A Reunion of Ghosts is in parts historical, lyrical, a eulogy of those who have gone before, part memoir, and above all an exceptional look at life, love, and the absolute desire for absolution. I would recommend A Reunion of Ghosts to all readers and especially to book discussion groups.
  • (5/5)
    “Reunion of Ghosts,” by Judith Claire Mitchell, is a brilliant, dark, humorous, character-driven novel on the theme of generational guilt and retribution. It’s also a sprawling historical soap opera magnificently transformed into a literary novel. Most of the time, it kept me smiling from ear to ear. But, like most really outstanding books, not everybody is going to feel as enthusiastic about it as I did. The book is an odd duck: on one hand, it’s a darkly comic tale that centers on a joint suicide pact of three middle-aged Jewish sisters living in New York City; on the other, it’s an uplifting book aimed at celebrating life in all its quirky splendor. The author created just the right balance. The book is overflowing with wit, wisdom, and humanity.The plot is loosely based on a handful of true-to-life historical facts. The Alter sisters (Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter) are descendants of Lenz Alter, a fictional character based on the infamous real life German chemist Fritz Haber, a man who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1918 for developing a process for synthesizing ammonia from air to create fertilizer. That process jump-started an agricultural boom that made possible the enormous world population explosion that has occurred over the last century. Now, that might sound bad to a lot of folks reading these words, but that’s not what made this real historical figure infamous. He’s maligned because he was also the Jewish-born, Christian-convert, German chemist who was responsible for first, weaponizing chlorine gas and promoting it to the German government for use during WWI, and second, for inventing the precursor process that led to the development of Zyklon B, the gas used in the Nazis to exterminate millions of Jews in the concentration camps during WWII. The Alter sisters believe their family has been cursed by their great grandfather’s murderous inventions. The sisters believe that many of their relatives have committed suicide because of this curse. They remember their mother telling them that “the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations,” but they never realized that this statement was merely a quote from the Bible. They’re positive the words apply directly and only to them. They are the fourth generation of Lenz Alter’s family; the curse has now settled on them. They’re ready to atone for the sins of their great grandfather and they plan to do it by committing suicide on the last day of the Millennium (New Years Eve, 1999). But before they do it, they agree to write a joint suicide note telling the world the long and strange story of their lives and the lives of their relatives back to when the curse began. “Reunion of Ghosts” is the product of their collaboration, their jointly penned, multigenerational, suicide memoir. The amazing thing is how casually normal and authentic it is to read. If you love multigenerational novels about dysfunctional families, especially ones filled with a whole host of true-to-life fictional characters and heaps of famous real life characters stuck in to add even more layers of validity to the story, then this is the book for you. To help readers with all the characters and how they relate to each other, the author gives a diagram of the Alter Family Tree in the beginning of the book. She also gives a list of the fictional and historical persons that will be mentioned in the book. I counted them. In total, there are 58 fictional characters and 59 real-life historical characters. The real characters are an eclectic mix of famous people like Albert and Mileva Einstein, Pierre and Marie Curie, Max Planck, Frank Zappa, Allen Ginsberg, and Janis Joplin (to name but a few). It’s fun to discover how cleverly the author weaves them into the plot of the novel. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t inform you that this novel dragged a tad bit at times. It’s an ambitious plot that demands a huge and complex back-story. At one point, I almost put the book down and picked up another. But I persisted, mostly carried along by the sheer brilliance of the author’s prose. Eventually, the fascinating, long, and convoluted back-story ended and the book’s plot in the present day swept me away once again. When I finished, I was totally besotted.