In the waning days of 1999, the Alter sisters—Lady, Vee, and Delph—finalize their plans to end their lives. Their reasons are not theirs alone; they are the last in a long line of Alters who have killed themselves, beginning with their great-grandmother, the wife of a Jewish Nobel Prize-winning chemist who developed the first poison gas used in World War I and the lethal agent used in Third Reich gas chambers. The chemist himself, their son Richard, and Richard’s children all followed suit.
The childless sisters also define themselves by their own bad luck. Lady, the oldest, never really resumed living after her divorce. Vee is facing cancer’s return. And Delph, the youngest, is resigned to a spinster’s life of stifled dreams. But despite their pain they love each other fiercely, and share a darkly brilliant sense of humour.
As they gather in the ancestral Upper West Side apartment to close the circle of the Alter curse, an epic story about four generations of one family—inspired in part by the troubled life of German-Jewish Fritz Haber, Nobel Prize winner and inventor of chlorine gas—unfolds. A Reunion of Ghosts is a tale of fate and blood, sin and absolution; partly a memoir of sisters unified by a singular burden, partly an unflinching eulogy of those who have gone before, and above all a profound commentary on the events of the 20th century. (Goodreads synopsis)
What is amazing about this book that it deserved a five star (might I add, this is the first five star I gave in 2016) is the characters and the setting (also the PUNS!!!! So many puns, I can’t help myself to love this book even more). I was interested upon seeing the beautiful hue of the cover, I was intrigued after reading its synopsis, was a bit put off because of the characters’ name (but who am I to judge?). Then as I began reading it, I just couldn’t stop. There was something unique and weird and sad and self-deprecating about how the story flaws that I just couldn’t stop reading it. I have to admit that it was pretty depressing and dark (and this might put off some readers), but as the story go back and forth between modern day Alter girls and those before them, there was no way I was going to back down from finishing this book.
I guess the real-ness of the story owes it to the extensive research the author had invested in writing this book. I don’t normally go and read an author’s acknowledgement at the end of the book, but I was very curious that I just kept on reading it. Believe you me, if you ever read this book, go and have a read on the author’s acknowledgement to be amaze and how extensively she has been researching for the characters that were the core of this book. I get that I can sometimes be overly bias when it comes to historical fiction but this is definitely one hell of a great historical fiction. Oh, one thing that I noticed as I was reading about these Alter girls is that there were some parts of the story that had reminded me a lot about The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells; not the story, but the ambience of vintage New York, I suppose. Not a bad thing, but just something I would like to share.
Now, to my favourite part of the book, the characters. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the characters are all lovable but you can’t help but sort of understood why they act the way they act. What was surprising for me the most was that I didn’t even realise that I was very emotionally invested with the characters until they killed themselves. Why does it surprise me? Well, let’s just say I am not a champion of suicide. I don’t agree with suicide. But reading the struggle that is the characters in the book, I feel like I can understand why they would opt for suicide instead of something else (not that I have an idea what this ‘something else’ might be). Point is, not only the author did an amazing research for the story, she is also very gifted in creating her characters, and I love stories like that.
Look, I seriously recommend people to read this book. What’s not to like? (1) It has an amazing storyline; (2) It has amazing and relatable characters; (3) The storytelling is crazy unique and very captivating; (4) Every pages leaves you wanting to know more. Word of advice, though, if you’re going through some rough patches and/or are a tad bit depressed or something, maybe you should not be reading this book. As I’ve said in the beginning, the book can be a little off putting for some people due to its extensive depressive and dark contents, but hey, there’s always PUNS to save the day.
Title: A Reunion of Ghosts
Author: Judith Claire Mitchell
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction