2015: A Reunion of Ghosts

A Reunion of Ghosts, Judith Claire Mitchell

And now, a pan.  Well, not a total pan, but a meh review at least.  Took this out of the (totally amazing btw) Newton Public Library, and, because my three children are always totally bonkers at said library, judged a book by its cover.  Which is to say, I looked at the title, scanned the blurb and thought, what the hell? And, it was definitely a well-written book - I picked it up and read it straight through.  No dropping off, no reading a PD James in the middle (which has totally been my metier, lately).  So there are some merits, to the book.  I was interested to find out what happenened next, I enjoyed the characters, I flew through it.

BUT, I just didn't like the plot.  And, natch, spoilers are to follow.  The book is about three sisters, one a widow, one a divorcee, one an virgin. All in their forties.  All clinically depressed.  One has terminal cancer (the widow).  {N.B. if i had known that one character had terminal cancer I certainly wouldn't have read it, but it wasn't too bad in that respect}.  So all three decide to committ suicide, together, on the last day of 1999.  And the book tells their stories about why they decided to do it - and of their family history, especially how they were descended from the guy who basically invented mustard gas (and thus, led to Zyklon-B - did I mention they are Jewish and lost a lot of family in the Holocaust?).  And all their family tree was full of depressive suicides.  And it's not totaly grim - this is a dark humor sort of book, so I was going with the flow, enjoying it despite the premise (cause you know I love a book that goes through a complicated tortured family history - that is my jam).  And then the end came!!

AND MEGA SPOILERS TO FOLLOW YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!! So, the girls are all together and the sick one is fading, and they are about to do it - and then their long lost aunt comes to the door (she has dementia and they live in the family apartment!).  And they go out and meet her family and realize that they can have happiness - she did - they aren't doomed by their past.  And you think that maybe they will not all kill themselves.  AND THEN THEY DO!! Even the two who aren't sick and really have no problems that an SSRI wouldn't fix.  It's ridiculous.  I just could not with this book.  Why read all about a bunch of people and have it be pretty sardonically funny and you like them and then its all, oh no, they did do it?? If its supposed to be an antisuicide book the humor really undercuts it, and if its supposed to be a pro suicide book then, bleh.  (except maybe for the terminally ill one, i guess.).  And if the idea is really that the mustard gas sins of the fathers are visited on the fourth generation, Jesus Christ.  

So, I don't know.  I liked Mitchell's writing just fine.  And the story was interesting (especially because its based on a real life story).  But I'm (and this is pretty prissy to say, but true) not sure I agree with the author's morals.  So I don't know if I'd read another of her books.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017