Review: These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card

Even though they were just words, they built a world that she couldn’t stop thinking about, that she felt trapped inside every night.

These Ghosts Are Family

Summary and Thoughts

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. 


I was hopeful for this book, but unfortunately, it let me down. A whirlwind of a multi-generational novel, These Ghosts Are Family follows the sprawling lineage of a Jamaican family, interspersed with the narration of ghosts commenting on the behaviors and thoughts of the remaining family members. Dense and lyrical, the novel quickly grabs the reader’s attention on the first page, and while I deeply enjoyed the first chapter, I found each subsequent chapter less engaging. The main reason for this was the handling of the various narratives, which often left me confused (Who’s speaking? What’s going on? Where is this going?). Even with the attached family tree, I had trouble following the novel’s logic (do NOT read this as an audiobook, lol). Though I can appreciate Card’s handling of history and juggling of different concepts/themes, in the end, I am still unsure of what exactly I read, no matter how beautifully it was written. If you’re looking for a narrative challenge, then perhaps consider this read.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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