Posted in Best Sellers, Cultural, Jamaica, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism

These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card

Publication Info: Expected publication date March 3, 2020 by Simon & Schuster. I read the Kindle edition, courtesy of NetGalley. Other editions will be available at time of publication.

Summary: When the novel opens, we meet Stanford Solomon, a man living in Jamaica near the end of his life. Stanford’s guilt over something he did in his past is catching up with him. With his wife recently deceased, Stanford decides to confess a huge secret to his partially estranged family: he is not Stanford Solomon. Long ago, he seized an opportunity to change his life by abandoning his real identity, his much hated job, and his first family, when the real Stanford Solomon was killed.

As the stories of Solomon and his family unfold, we learn that he’s not the only one with secrets. This is a family of flawed people, who are just trying to survive. One daughter is a heroin addict and the other works in New York as home health care worker, struggling to raise two kids alone. His first wife had an affair and an abortion.

Meanwhile, another woman is about to get a shock. After signing up for a DNA website, Debbie’s father gives her his her great-great-great-great grandfather’s journal. Harold Fowler owned a plantation in Jamaica in the 1800’s. Her ancestors once owned the ancestors of of people she’s never met — Stanford Solomon (aka Able Paisley) and his family. She also realizes that they are distant cousins. She finds the emotionally detached and violent information in Harold’s journal to be very disturbing. She can’t get the images out of her head.

In a non-linear style, the author continues to reveal more about the history of both families, drawing the reader deeper into the Jamaican culture and the ongoing effects of slavery.

Comments: This was not an fast and easy book to read. Aside from the dialect (which I would have loved to hear in an audio format), the book jumps between various voices and timelines. I had to slow down my usual reading speed, or risk missing things.

These Ghosts are Family shook me out of my white, urban comfort zone and gave me a emotionally complex glimpse into Jamaican history and culture.

Recommended for book clubs and discussion groups, readers of Literary Fiction and those interested in Jamaican history, culture and slavery.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Young Adult

The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich

Summary: Lilly Connelly can’t wait to turn eleven years old. Eleven is a magical year in the Connelly family. Eleven is imagination and limitless potential. Being eleven is like standing on the top of a mountain, wind in your face, arms outstretched and knowing that with just a bit of magic you could fly.

Lilly lives with her parents and fourteen-year-old sister, Anna, in the mountains of rural Montana. Her photographer father, Sam, drinks a bit too much and looks at the world through his camera. Her mother, Nell, tells Lilly fanciful fables that feed her imagination. Anna spends her days dreaming of marrying her boyfriend.

From her mother’s stories and her own nearly white hair, Lilly fantasizes that she is a soulmate to the trumpeter swans. In her mind, they speak to her. The graceful migratory birds come to the Montana mountains each year to nest and hatch their young. Hunted for their beautiful white feathers, meat and skins, the trumpeter swans are endangered. Lilly and her father witnessed the senseless slaughter of one of their young the previous year. Sam is sure he knows the identity of the swan killer.

In 1929, on the day Lilly turns eleven, the family rides their bikes out to the marsh to see the trumpeter swans. Lilly climbs a tree to get a better view. She sees Anna wandering off in the meadow flowers. She sees her parents smiling, watching the swans, taking photographs. Then she sees a man in a dark green coat shatter her world with a shotgun blast.

Comments: The imagery in The Swan Keeper is very powerful.  It is swirl of white—the cold, the snow, Lilly’s hair, the swans, angels, dreams… The white and cold crept into my bones. But the coldest of all is the man in the dark green coat.

This is the kind of book to read by a fire, under a blanket with a cup of something hot to drink. But I think it would not be the kind of book to read in a cabin in the winter forest, alone with nothing but the sounds of the night with my mind listening for the crunching of boots in the snow outside my window.

Themes in The Swan Keeper span generations. I recommend this book for 12 and up.

I received this book to review from the Open Books book reviewer program, BookGlow.

I give this one 5 books.

5 out of 5 books