The Ghost at the Tableby Suzanne Berne
Strikingly different since childhood and leading dissimilar lives now, sisters Frances and Cynthia have managed to remain "devoted"—as long as they stay on opposite coasts. When Frances arranges to host Thanksgiving at her idyllic New England farmhouse, she envisions a happy family reunion, one that will include the sisters' long-estranged father.
Strikingly different since childhood and leading dissimilar lives now, sisters Frances and Cynthia have managed to remain "devoted"—as long as they stay on opposite coasts. When Frances arranges to host Thanksgiving at her idyllic New England farmhouse, she envisions a happy family reunion, one that will include the sisters' long-estranged father. Cynthia, however, doesn't understand how Frances can ignore the past their father's presence revives, a past that includes suspicions about their mother's death twenty-five years earlier.
As Thanksgiving Day arrives, with a houseful of guests looking forward to dinner, the sisters continue to struggle with different versions of a shared past, their conflict escalating to a dramatic, suspenseful climax.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Cynthia can be a bitter narrator, and Frances's sepia-toned desire for "a regular old-fashioned family holiday" makes her an easy target, but Berne is not a bitter author, and forgiveness finally comes to these people in the most natural and believable ways. Despite some good shots at the hysteria that infects most of us around the fourth Thursday of November, this is a surprisingly tender story that celebrates the infinite frustrations and joys of these crazy people we're yoked to forever. All in all, something to add to your list of things to be grateful for.
The Washington Post
Sisters, living and dead, loom large in Berne's tale of family secrets unraveled. Cynthia Fiske writes a series of historical fiction for girls, depicting the lives of remarkable women through the eyes of their slightly less-remarkable sisters. An invitation to her own sister's house for Thanksgiving in New England coincides with her need to visit Mark Twain's home in Hartford to research a new novel on the writer's daughters, whose story of a charismatic father and three troubled siblings parallels the Fiskes' history. Complicating the usual holiday tensions is the presence of their elderly father, once brash and manipulative, now disabled and facing a divorce from his much-younger wife. As the family struggles with generations of dysfunction and unspoken secrets, including the mysterious death of their mother decades earlier, Cynthia rebels by sharing the most sordid details of the long-gone Clemens family. Although she is nearing middle age, her feelings of isolation and rejection that began in childhood have left her a perpetual adolescent in relation to her family. Much like the child narrator of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend (Knopf, 2002), Berne portrays a confusing, comic, even sinister family dynamic and eschews a pat, happy ending in favor of a very real, if provocative, choice that will appeal to teen fans of family dramas.
Jenny GassetCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.54(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.86(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 18 Years
What People are Saying About This
"Suzanne Berne has written a novel as nuanced and illuminating as it is gripping. Think of a book inside a book inside a book, and, at the heart of them all, the complex lies and truths we tell our loved ones and ourselves. The Ghost at the Table is a searing, beautiful,important novel."
—Elizabeth, Graver author of Awake and Unravelling
Meet the Author
Suzanne Berne is the author of three novels, the first of which, A Crime in the Neighborhood, won great Britain’s Orange Prize. Her most recent novel is The Ghost at the Table. She lives with her family near Boston and teaches at Boston College.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Rarely, do I read reviews for books before reading them - no need to spoil the fun, but for some reason I did on this one. Depressing was the overall theme for the reviews, so I went in a skeptic and hoping that this book wasn't the downer it was potrayed to be. A story that centers around the two remaining sisters of a family that started with three. With a less than wonderful childhood, these girls lost their mom early on and with that they lost their father to another woman. A sister passing away and distance made this reconnection over Thanksgiving awkward and dramatic. Add in random guests and one of the sister's two daughters, this book was even awkward in the reading. A connection between the book that sister Cynthia is writing about Mark Twain's three daughters and their childhood is interesting as she continues to give details about this book she is writing about the Twain family. It was great to read this book in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, but I am not sure I would have enjoyed it if I had read it at another time of the year.
I didn't feel any connection between the characters. But, this was actually brilliant, because this is the gist of dysfunctional familes. The problem is that I also was unable to make a connection with the protagonist - or any other character. Having said all that, the story wasn't disjointed. The author tied everybody together through the use of the protagonist's occupation. There is a ton of "stuff" in the book ideal for analytical discussion.
I read the book all the way through although it was not as good a book as I would have liked. I would not read this book again.
I've had some issues at home, such as going back, which is what the main character struggles in. Good novel :-)
I read almost nonstop, minus the time I'm taking to write this and the time I'm forced to spend at school :-) and this book is good... it reminds me of my own life actually... take out the dad's sickness and divorce, i think it would've been better, but it's very good!
This book was disappointing to me. The characters seemed cold and unrealistic. And the ending was a bit foggy to me.