Phantoms

Christian Kiefer. Liveright, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87140-481-7
Kiefer’s sweeping novel (after One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place to Hide) examines the ways war shapes the lives of ordinary people. Upon returning to Placer County, Calif., after serving in Vietnam, John Frazier is at loose ends: 21 and gripped by recollections of violence and a drug habit he’s trying to kick, he’s unable to imagine his future. But when he runs into his long-lost aunt Evelyn Wilson, John is improbably sucked into the mystery of what happened to Ray Takahashi, Evelyn’s Japanese-American former neighbor, who disappeared soon after returning from WWII. With John in tow, Evelyn meets with Ray’s mother to reveal a secret she’s kept for 26 years—that, unbeknownst to Ray, Evelyn’s daughter, Helen, gave birth to his baby after he came back from the war. At Evelyn’s insistence, Helen gave up the infant to an orphanage partly due to the “disgrace” of a mixed-race child. As John grapples with his own ghosts, he investigates Ray’s life: his idyllic childhood growing up with the Wilson children, his romance with Helen, the Takahashi family’s transfer to an internment camp and the prejudice they encountered. After Evelyn exposes her secret, the sinister forces underlying Ray’s disappearance begin rising closer to the surface. Kiefer’s story sheds light on the prejudice violence ignites and on the Japanese-American experience during a fraught period of American history, and makes for engaging and memorable novel. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/06/2019
Release date: 04/09/2019
Genre: Fiction
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