These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card | Book Review

Emmarae McLendon The Black Lens

This is truly one of the greatest debut novels I’ve ever read, and then immediately reread.

In the striking debut novel “These Ghosts Are Family” by Maisy Card (2020) we observe Stanford Solomon, a Jamaican man who makes the decision in his old age to tell his health aide about who he truly is. You see, he is actually Abel Paisley and he faked his own death in the 70s, stole his friend’s identity, and left Jamaica leaving his family behind. Now, why is he telling his health aide you ask? Well… because she is actually his first born daughter! *gasp* He is about to meet her for the first time! *gasp!* And this is about to be her first day as his health aide! *gasp!!* (What a first day at work…)

This story is such a rollercoaster of emotions because you get every character’s perspective of how Abel’s choices affected them - including himself, his children, and grandchildren. Due to Card’s incredible writing she shows deeply generational trauma that seeps through the family. We even see characters from Abel’s ancestors in colonial Jamaica.

This book had me heavily annotating all throughout! I highlighted, underlined, scribbled, and even added post-it notes, so I could fully express my thoughts and emotions. I felt hopeful, sad, horrified, seen, and hidden. I felt such a range of emotions that when I finished reading it I actually read it again the following month! I was motivated to do such a quick reread because I was truly baffled at how well the characters were written. After reading the last page, I felt like I truly understood the characters and why they made the decisions they made. I held immense empathy for some and felt very frustrated with others.

There is a quote toward the end of the book that brought me to tears (as a lot of moments did in this book). I’ll leave out some spoilery context, but a character is thinking that “maybe if he knew which country his ancestors came from, he’d know which gods to pray to; maybe the spirits of his long-dead family could find him now and save [them].”

No matter what religion you practice it can’t be denied how hard hitting this quote is. This is something that has always lurked in my mind accompanied by the feeling of knowing certain traditions or prayers are lost forever. I highlighted this sentence and shed a tear at how powerful of a statement. Moments of my own life where I thought something similar came to mind which made my cry even more. (Notably thinking of all the times I’ve been asked “But where are you reallyyyy from? Like where are your ancestors actually from?”)

These Ghost Are Family by Maisy Card is an incredible read and one that will stick with you months after reading, perhaps you’ll even do a reread immediately like me.