'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.'
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.
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.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
Three wickedly funny sisters, all named after flowers, are bound by a disturbing common curse: they are the last in their line, a dynastic Jewish family which, going back four generations, has a strong tradition of suicide. And now they are planning to do the same as their ancestors and great grandparents: end it all on December 31, 1999 at their Manhattan apartment. Together, mind you. Which begs the question: how do three people write a suicide note?
Before they end their lives, the three women entertain us with the secret history of their family tree, punctuated with a lot of wisecracks and puns.
Straight away, this bold venture brings to mind the show-stopping brio of the young Jeffrey Eugenides in The Virgin Suicides. Written with similar panache and confidence, this darkly funny novel tackles the serious theme of inherited guilt. It announces its cleverness with the Einstein quote on its opening page: 'The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once' which was enough to send this reader's mind reeling off into orbit.
About the Author
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.
`Had me devouring the pages ... A story that's tragic, touching and - against all odds - strangely uplifting' Stylist Magazine, 5 Stars
`One of the sharpest, tartest, flat-out funniest books you're likely to read any time soon... A master-class in tragi-comedy' Hepzibah Anderson, Jewish Chronicle
`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
`My favourite novel of the year ... This mordantly funny story of the Alter sisters is a literary mash-up of The Virgin Suicides and Grey Gardens. I wouldn't be surprised if Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola are slugging it out for the film rights already.' Sam Baker, Harpers Bazaar, Books of 2015
`A book about suicide, written by three damaged characters hell-bent on self-destruction? It may not sound a barrel of laughs, but this is not only poignant and moving, but genuinely funny - with the humour ranging from the darkest comedy to some superbly silly puns' Daily Mail
`A Reunion of Ghosts is a very funny book but it is also tender, sombre and thought-provoking' Financial Times
`Mitchell's masterful family saga is as funny as it is aching ... 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' Kirkus, starred review
`This original tale is black comedy at its best' People
`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' Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia
`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
`Dark but comedic, A Reunion of Ghosts is the portrait of four generations of a complicated family' Buzzfeed, `The Most Exciting New Books of 2015'