cover image These Ghosts Are Family

These Ghosts Are Family

Maisy Card. Simon & Schuster, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-9821-1743-6

Card’s profound, assured debut explores Jamaican colonial history to uncover a family’s painful past. Spanning two centuries and eight generations of the Paisley family, the narrative begins in 2005 with Stanford Solomon, a Jamaican immigrant to the United States who was once known as Abel Paisley before faking his own death 35 years earlier, assuming his dead friend’s identity, and estranging himself from his family. After Stanford finally reaches out to his daughter, Irene, a 37-year-old home health aide in New York City, to confess that he’s been alive all this time, her late mother, Vera, a ghost who spent decades without knowing what happened to her husband, notes that “death is just one long therapy session.” Meanwhile, Stanford’s daughter by a second marriage, Estelle Solomon, struggles with heroin addiction and grief that she cannot support her 18-year-old daughter. As Card traces the family’s roots back through Jamaica’s history under British rule and enslavement, literal and figurative ghosts animate the novel, and a wrenching description of the violent 1831 Christmas Rebellion and its aftermath reveals that Stanford was not the first of the Paisleys to rewrite the history of their lineage. Through a fluid blend of patois and erudite descriptions of Jamaica, Card offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of a troubled but resilient family whose struggles are inscribed by the island they once called home. This masterful chronicle haunts like the work of Marlon James and hits just as hard. Agent: Monica Odom, Liza Dawson Associates. (Mar.)