General, Makes You Think

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card


A transporting debut novel that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

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.

A man steals another man’s identity and lives a whole new life over decades. What happens to his first family and how do his actions shape their lives? Maisy Card’s debut novel is bursting with the stories of all the people touched by Abel Paisley’s split second decision to become Solomon Stanford. She skillfully weaves all the stories together and lets the lives of so many bleed out on to the pages. You won’t like all the characters, but you will be drawn into their stories nonetheless.

Stories like this always make me think about the decisions we make and how they affect others. There are so many paths we could all walk down throughout our lives – whose path did we affect and what did it mean? Card doesn’t pull punches. There are some ugly things in this books, but the characters feel real and raw so that you can’t help but feel their pain, sorrow, and joy.

This will be one of the best of 2020. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy