One suicide note.
Lady, Vee, and Delphine Alter are three middle-aged sisters that live together in the apartment they grew up in. They are obsessed with death, and with the history of their family—the legacy of their great-grandfather haunting them. And that is their curse: the sins of the father are visited upon the 3rd and 4th generation. This, to them, seems inescapable. If you look back down the last four branches on the family tree, each Alter has come to an untimely death—at their own hand. When Vee is diagnosed with cancer for the third and final time, the sisters set in motion their own deaths.
These sisters come from the Alter family, Jews exiled from Germany around the time of the Second World War. Their great-grandfather was responsible for reprehensible things that ended up being used on his own people. Through this tale, through the lives of his descendants, we see the effect this has had upon them. Their belief, stemming from the Old Testament, that the children to the 3rd and 4th generations are punished for the sins of the father, highlights their search for absolution—and their hopelessness.
A Reunion of Ghosts is their suicide note. Funny, poignant, dark, and very compelling, it is the history of the Alters, reaching back four generations. It is a family saga, told in a very original way.
I really liked this book! At first I wasn’t completely sold on it—it took me about a hundred pages to really get into it. But once I did, I was so glad I persevered! I loved this book and it’s characters. The strange Alters and their strange curse. I loved the touch of history and the way it always came back to the sisters—and they to each other.
Their mother used to often refer to the sisters as having the closeness of siamese triplets. They did everything together. Their identities always seem to come back to their relationship—they are the Alter sisters. Though parts of their journey were done as individuals, they always return to one another. This closeness is epitomized in the narration of the story—the narrator is always “we” and “us.” Although we do get to know them as individuals, I always found myself thinking of them as a whole.
The writing is very well done, the characters unique and well developed. My favourite thing, however, is the structure of the story. The entire book is their suicide note. It is the story of their family, as told by them. They write down all the stories they know about each family member, and flit back in time to fill us in. I must say, however, that the story started off a bit slowly and at times I wondered if I wanted to keep going.
Overall, this is an excellent book. I recommend it to those that like darkly funny things, war stories, family sagas, and literary fiction.
My Rating: A-
Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for my participation in this tour and my honest review. I otherwise received no compensation. All thoughts here are completely honest and completely my own.
About Judith Claire Mitchell
Judith Claire Mitchell, author of the novel 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, Judy has received fellowships from the James A. Michener/Copernicus Society, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and elsewhere. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, the artist Don Friedlich.
Thursday, March 26th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, March 27th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, March 30th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, March 31st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 1st: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, April 8th: BookNAround
Thursday, April 9th: Doing Dewey
Monday, April 13th: The Discerning Reader
Tuesday, April 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, April 15th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 16th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, April 17th: Fuelled by Fiction
Friday, April 17th: Reader’s Oasis
Thursday, April 23rd: Spiced Latte Reads
TBD: More Than Just Magic
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.