PEN/Hemingway Award For Debut Novel Finalist Shortlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A “rich, ambitious debut novel” (The New York Times Book Review) that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Stanford Solomon’s shocking, thirty-year-old secret is about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford has done something no one could ever imagine. He is a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley.
And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.
These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present-day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of a single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the houseboy who loved Vera, whose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.
This “rich and layered story” (Kirkus Reviews) explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is a “beguiling…vividly drawn, and compelling” (BookPage, starred review) portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret.
About the Author
Maisy Card holds an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College and is a public librarian. Her writing has appeared in Lenny Letter, School Library Journal, Agni, Sycamore Review, Liars’ League NYC, and Ampersand Review. Maisy was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, but was raised in Queens, New York. Maisy earned an MLIS from Rutgers University and a BA in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University. She is the author of These Ghosts Are Family.
An Entertainment Weekly, Millions, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2020 Pick and Buzz Magazine’s Top New Book of the New Decade
"Maisy Card is a great writer. Her compelling debut evokes the richness of culture and the inevitable impact of generational secrets, full of magnificent characters that continue to haunt me." —Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy and Here Comes the Sun
"Every family's got secrets but Abel Paisley's secret is monstrous and mesmerizing. These Ghosts are Family begins with energy and intrigue and, really, never lets up. This book is painful and shocking but it can be funny as hell, too. What a talented writer. Maisy Card has written one of the best debut novels I've read in many years." —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"Through Maisy Card’s immersive storytelling, These Ghosts Are Family explores the intersections of generational trauma, love, and long-held family secrets, showing what it means to build a life in the face of history. I was hooked from page one." —Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
“I suspect many readers will talk about the consequences of unspoken generational trauma in These Ghosts Are Family, but I'm most amazed by the deft use of characterization, place and embodiment here. This book is a master class in writing home as a collection of odd spirits and a mobile metaphor.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division
“In this fascinating debut, Maisy Card reveals her spectacular range and scope. Part immigrant narrative, part ghost story, part historical fiction, part family drama, These Ghosts Are Family explores and illuminates the complexities of race and lineage in Jamaica and the United States. This is a bold, gripping, compassionate book." —Helen Phillips, author of The Need
“Maisy Card's relentlessly inventive debut is a thrilling exploration of family, memory and which pasts we choose to haunt us.” —Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman
"This spirited narrative is grounded in a devastating history; and yet, somehow, These Ghosts Are Family generates a sense of possibility about the future—for these characters, and for the reader as well." —Tope Folarin, author of A Particular Kind of Black Man
“How do actions reverberate across multiple generations? In Maisy Card's stunning novel, people live and die and lose and love and make their way through this chaotic but profound experience we call life. Her luminous prose lights a way even in the darkest moments. These Ghosts Are Family will haunt you long after you finish it.” —Michele Filgate, author of What My Mother and I Don't Talk About
“Written with the brand of Jamaican humor I know and love, These Ghosts Are Family is a book I didn't know I needed to read, which might be the best kind of book. Maisy Card is a wonderful arrival for Caribbean literature.” —Alexia Arthurs, author of How to Love a Jamaican
“These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card will enchant readers completely with a fascinating cast of characters, each more bewitching than the last. This book is destined to become 2020’s most beloved debut novel.” —Julia Fierro, author of The Gypsy Moth Summer
"[A] rich, ambitious debut novel...Each character gives Card a fresh opportunity to play with form: Chapters shapeshift here into historical fiction, there into folklore...Card’s ghosts bracingly remind us that no family history is comprehensive, that some riddles of ancestry and heritage persist beyond this lifetime."—New York Times Book Review
"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."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A rich and layered story...A wonderfully ambitious novel: It sprawls in time from the uncertain present to the horror of slavery on a Jamaican plantation, examining racism, colorism, and infidelity and how they obscure and fracture a lineage...An intriguing debut with an inventive spin on the generational family saga." —Kirkus
"Inventive and captivating. . . Card’s depiction of genealogy and historical research is spot-on…”—BuzzFeed
“Beguiling...Vividly drawn and compelling. There is magic in these pages.”—BookPage, Starred Review
“[A] stunning, kaleidoscopic debut…Card invites readers to imagine themselves as a series of characters, one by one, in the moments before [a] revelation upends their identities, and such inventive narrative techniques continue throughout the novel…A fantastic debut.”—Booklist, Starred Review
"[A] lyrical, ambitious debut...Card is a restless writer. Her first chapter delivers a stunning series of second-person character portraits; they build into a centuries-spanning epic about race, trauma, and the weight of a lie." —Entertainment Weekly
"A breathtaking story that sweeps across continents and time." —Debutiful
"A transporting debut novel that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations." —Lit Hub
"One of the buzziest books of the year...Spanning decades, this moving tale will chronicle one family's story from colonial Jamaica to modern-day Harlem." —PopSugar