I’m so grateful to WPR/NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge (and to the wonderful Anne Strainchamps) for interviewing me earlier this year when A Reunion of Ghosts was released and now for naming it as one of the top ten books of 2015. Here’s what they have to say about it:
In April 1915, German forces fired more than 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas at Allied divisions on the Western Front at Ypres. Wind blew the greenish-yellow mist across no man’s land and into the trenches.
Within 10 minutes, there were 5,000 dead and an equal number blinded and stumbling — a triumph for the German commanders and for the 47-year old bespectacled chemist who joined them that day. His name was Fritz Haber. He would go on to win a Nobel Prize for developing the first nitrogen-based fertilizers, which saved billions from starvation. But he is also remembered as the “father of chemical warfare.”
Judith Claire Mitchell used the story of Fritz Haber and his wife Clara — also a chemist — as inspiration for her novel, “A Reunion of Ghosts.” It’s a darkly witty meditation on family, guilt and fate, narrated by the three great-granddaughters of World War II chemists. When the book opens, the sisters have decided to kill themselves. The novel is their suicide note — but don’t let that deter you.
The sisters’ collective voice ranges from sardonic to hilarious; this may be the only “laugh out loud” novel about mass murder and suicide you’ll ever read.
The other favorites were “The Sellout” by Paul Beatty; “All the Wild that Remains” by David Gessner; “Words Without Music” by Philip Glass; “The First Collection of Criticism From a Living Female Rock Critic” by Jessica Hopper; “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro; “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald; “War is Beautiful” by David Shields; “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir; and “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” by Andrea Wulf.