Praise for A Reunion of Ghosts

Awards & Prizes:

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  • A 2015 National Jewish Book Awards Fiction Finalist
  • A Kirkus Best Book of 2015
  • Recipient of the 2015 Edna Ferber Fiction Award
  • Recipient of a 2015 Friends of American Writers Award in Fiction
  • A Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Book of 2015
  • A 2016 Harold U. Ribalow Award Finalist
  • Long-listed for the 2017 Dublin Literary Award

Praise from Authors:

What if the man who invented chemical weapons was also a grandfather, and what if his great-grandchildren grew up to be three hilarious, introverted, deeply haunted sisters? And what if those sisters co-wrote a fascinating, funny, and deeply sad 350-page suicide note? Then you’d have A Reunion of Ghosts. This is a triumphant, beautiful, and devastating novel about coincidences, family, and the sins of our fathers

 —Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See

Mordant, wry, and crystalline in wit and vision… Judith Claire Mitchell understands what’s at the marrow of our funny bones, that humor lives in darkness, that our families are our curses and our blessings, that great pain can beget great warmth and love.

   — Lauren Groff, National Book Award finalist for Fates & Furies

A rich portrait of a complicated family, at turns violent and hilarious, shot through with love and death and the scars that reappear generation after generation, through decades and across continents.

   — Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers

Lordy, what an artfully accomplished novel…I am enthralled by this novel. I am beguiled. I am charmed. And, to be sure, I am humbled. A Reunion of Ghosts is a sterling example of what Updike argued was the work that fiction did best: it turns the there and then into the here and now.

— Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once: New and Selected Stories

…one of the most darkly hilarious novels I’ve ever read and just whip-smart.

— Cecily Wong, author of Diamond Head

Praise from Critics:

The Alter sisters are convinced they’re cursed. Their great-grandfather’s inventions led to mass killings in two world wars, and they’ve lost multiple relatives to suicide. So Lady, Delph and Vee–middle-aged, Jewish and living in their family apartment in Manhattan–decide to exit the world together. Laughing yet? It’s hardly an amusing premise, but Mitchell explores the mixed-blessing bonds of family with wry wit. This original tale is black comedy at its best.
— People Magazine, Book of the Week

“A Reunion of Ghosts” balances gallows humor with the seriousness of the sisters’ history and is a memorable and meticulous exploration of personal responsibility and borrowed guilt. (full review)
L.A. Times

A Reunion of Ghosts is a very funny book but it is also tender, sombre and thought-provoking. Narrated in the first-person plural, it is often impossible to tell which of the sisters is telling the story…and yet questions of individuality and self-determination are omnipresent. Where do we as individuals stop and start? Can we escape the ghosts of the past? Can we shake off the lifeless beliefs that bind us? What is the nature of their power?…Are we the playthings of the gods, or the deus ex machina in our own scripts? For Vee Alter, “the meaning of life had always been that life had no meaning, and the moral of the story was that there was no moral of the story. Things that seemed significant weren’t.” Whether author or reader agree with her is another matter entirely. (full review)
The Financial Times of London

Mitchell’s dark comedy captures the agony and ecstasy (of her characters’ lives) with deep empathy and profound wit. For the Alters, life has been a seemingly endless series of tragedies; for us, the tragedy is that this stunning novel inevitably comes to an end. (full review )
  — Kirkus,  starred review 

…my favourite novel of the year so far… (T)his mordantly funny story of the Alter sisters – Lady, Vee and Delph – is a literary mash-up of The Virgin Suicides and Gray Gardens. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola are slugging it out for the film rights already. (full article)
  — Sam Baker, Harper’s Bazaar (UK)

Mitchell’s triumphant second novel explores love, identity, and the burdens of history in coruscating, darkly comic prose. Moving nimbly through time and balancing her weightier themes with the sharply funny, fiercely unsentimental perspectives of her three protagonists…Mitchell’s fictional suicide note is poignant and pulsing with life force. (full review)
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

…emotionally involving, masterfully structured, intelligent… A Reunion of Ghosts invites us to examine our own truths. What is good? What is evil? What do we owe to history? What do we owe to others? To ourselves? These are questions we must try to answer. Too few novels raise them. This novel, raising these questions, will be for many the first step on a journey to wisdom. (full review)
— Kelly Cherry for The Hollins Critic

The novel focuses on three daughters of the fourth generation (who) are witty, almost unrelievedly funny, unforgettable and terribly damaged….The writing is macabre, deliciously brilliant and hilarious…” (full review)
  — Rosemary Sullivan for The Wall Street Journal

A beautifully crafted and original novel, “A Reunion of Ghosts” clearly establishes author Judith Claire Mitchel as an extraordinary literary talent.
 — Midwest Book Journal

…sad but never depressing…as funny as it is poignant — and not cynically, darkly humorous but buoyantly so…Mitchell’s plot, which twists in unexpected but believable ways and opens up just when it seems as if it can only close in, is thoroughly satisfying, but it’s the tone of her novel — that ability to savor joy and sorrow at the same time — that makes it remarkable. (full review)
The Columbus Dispatch

Though the book is dark, the author is able to move nimbly through time, and balances the novel’s weightier themes with the sharply funny, fiercely unsentimental perspectives of her three protagonists. (full review)
The New Criterion

Complex, yet emotionally rewarding, A Reunion of Ghosts is a novel unafraid of addressing the big questions in life – love, death, guilt, family – and does so in a narrative that unfolds with true grace and skill. (full review)
  — Net Galley

The principal strength of “A Reunion of Ghosts” is Mitchell’s astute and feeling characterizations. The panoramic perspective of decades lends the three Alter sisters — and before them their ancestor Iris — a sharp authenticity, a realness that intensifies as the years pass and they gradually, gracelessly submit to the existential despair that springs eternal for them. (full review)
  — Haaretz

…one of the sharpest, tartest, flat-out funniest books you’re likely to read any time soon…this master-class in tragi-comedy sustains its anarchic tempo until the very end. (full review)
  — The Jewish Chronicle

Mitchell’s novel is an exploration of unintended consequences and the burdens of well-mapped bloodlines, brought together in a perfect confluence of humor and despair. (full review)
  — BookRiot

A clever, modern tale that…hearkens back to…a host of unusual, lively memorable characters.… Darkly humorous.
  — Library Journal

The second novel of American author Judith Claire Mitchell…is a delightfully cheeky and subversive story, highlighting what is either deliberately hidden or overlooked in the accepted narrative of history: the contributions of a scientist’s equally qualified wife to his published research, for example, or the price of genius. (full review)
  — The Straits Times (Singapore)

A book about suicide, written by three damaged characters hell-bent on self-destruction? It may not sound a barrel of laughs, but this is not only poignant and moving, but genuinely funny — with the humour ranging from the darkest comedy to some superbly silly puns. (full review)
  — The Daily Mail (U.K.)

Judith Claire Mitchell’s A Reunion of Ghosts has dark subject matter – suicide, the gas chambers – but the verve of the three eccentric New York heroines, cracking jokes into the jaws of death, give it an irresistible comic charge.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett for The Guardian (Best Books of 2015)

A Reunion of Ghosts is a fabulously imaginative and creative work…(It) celebrates what it means to live in a worthwhile manner and feel alive. (full review)
  — Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)

Funny though it is—and it is often very funny—Mitchell tackles serious cosmic issues, ranging from the meaning or meaninglessness of life, acausal time (all events are random), coincidence vs. synchronicity, and the burden of history—how ghosts from the past continue to haunt the living…Yet the story is also about the consolations of deeply felt love. The Alter sisters are enchanting, and so is Mitchell’s wonderful novel. (full review)

“Had me devouring the pages. Tragic, touching, uplifting. Five stars.” (full review)
The Stylist (England)

(A) skillfully written, quick-witted novel. Listeners will be spellbound to the very end. (full review)
AudioFile Magazine (re: audio book edition)

I was hooked by page four… (full review)
  — New Zealand Sunday Star Times

Judith Claire Mitchell’s novel leverages bitter ironies about the scientific and intimate lives of Fritz Haber and Albert Einstein to build a profoundly engaging work of high literary quality. A Reunion of Ghosts is beautifully-written fiction with a unique style that is compelling through every dark moment. This sad story will also facilitate study of the depths of Jewish tradition on such topics as death, suicide, guilt, innovation, the Holocaust. (full review)
— The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

…an impressive structural, aesthetic and narrative feat. The choral voice of the Alter sisters is perfectly rendered, and Mitchell infuses that voice with a humor that leavens the book’s dark themes and tone…A Reunion of Ghosts is a significant accomplishment. (full review)
The Cedar Rapids Gazette

Inspired in part by the life of German chemist Fritz Haber, this novel is a carefully crafted, thought-provoking examination of history past and present as seen through the eyes of a complex yet humble family.
  — Booklist

The novel is a long, darkly witty suicide note set near the dawn of 2000. Themes include the pleasures and burdens of family, women in academia, romantic love, introversion and religion.” (full review)
  — The Dallas Morning News

…a profound commentary on the events of the 20th century…a beautiful novel about the blessings and burdens bestowed by blood…This complex book is a difficult, but poignant, read…an utterly unique and interesting read that is well worth the effort. (full review)
The New Zealand Booklovers Review

You’ll instantly love the voices of the three Alter sisters who populate this acerbic, brilliant novel…Despite its dark themes, the book is hilarious
  — Barnes & Noble Reads

Judith Claire Mitchell has given us an intense and memorable tale, filled with quirky, ironically amusing, but always compelling characters. (full review)
  — The Jewish Book Council

The novel is written like a long, group suicide note filled with personal and family revelations — brutally funny ones. (full review)
  — New York Post

Readers will come to feel deeply for these sisters and empathize with them as the women recall their lives together. This is a tragic tale of fate and choice that will move readers to tears. (full review)
  — RT Book Reviews Magazine

…three sisters, forming a darkly humorous Greek chorus, write their suicide note — the triumphant, tragic, and memorable story that is A Reunion of Ghosts. From their German-born great-grandfather Lenz (death by morphine) to their mother Dahlie (death by drowning), the sisters’ story spans generations, the Atlantic, and all manner of misfortune. But what could be a story of pure devastation is, in Mitchell’s empathetic hands, a wry and tender examination of family ties.

The themes of fate, coincidence, family ties and family curses, and the power of genetics are all bound up in the sisters’ smart and acerbic observations. This is what keeps us reading and on edge with hope for their redemption. (full review)
CJ: Voices of Conservative Judaism

…quirky, profound, tragic, morbidly comical… (full review)
— The Buffalo News

…complex…hilarious (full review)
— The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

…with fresh, illuminating fiction, Mitchell creates a world that is suffused with human drama, comedy and pathos…. While leaving a bittersweet taste, this one delights. (full review)
— The Philippine Star

Praise From Booksellers:

It is hard to put into words how bitter-sweet this novel is, and just how peculiar and entertaining it is too, while being a touch macabre. Incredibly funny…
— Waterstones, United Kingdome (2016 Book Club Selection)

Mitchell weaves the twentieth century through (her characters’) lives and does a particularly sparkling job of capturing New York in its economic nadir and the drab efficiency of a German university town many decades earlier. As for her characters…I grew so fond of them all that I wished I could save each one…
 — Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

[F]rom the start…I found Mitchell’s sisters and their family attractive, humorous, sympathetic, and dynamic.  But then the story continued to get stronger, the events more interesting, more deeply drawn, and the more I read, the more I identified, the more I cared, the more I enjoyed.
— Allen Murphey, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

Irreverent and darkly humorous, yet absolutely serious and gut-wrenching, the sisters’ story is inextricably linked to the battlefields of WWI, the Holocaust, and even global warming. The stories of their forebears are so interwoven into their lives that they cannot distinguish their own deeds from those of their ancestors. This is my favorite book so far this year and would be a great book club selection. Free will, suicide, family curses, family bonds, randomness…great discussion topics. I was astonished when I realized that the patriarch of this fictional family is an actual historical figure who, though long dead, still impacts the Earth and our future.
SnowBound Books, Marquette, Michigan (March Book Group Selection)

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell is one of the best novels that I’ve read in years. A wry black comedy…It’s deftly written, rich and intelligent, the humor witty and razor-sharp…
Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kansas

The story tugged me along relentlessly–complicated, life and death stuff, myriad varieties of women, those mistakes in remembering that are so dangerous, effects of the past on the present, wide range and serious depth of loving and being loved. It’s a great read and it all stays with you. (A Common Good Books’ best book of 2015)
Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minnesota

[A]bsolutely astounding… a novel beautifully written – startlingly so in fact – and drew from me both tears of sadness and laughter… It is evocative and chilling, hilarious and devastating, and brutally questions the difference between truth and fiction, between meaning and coincidence. READ IT. Please.
The Bookshop, West Sussex, England

Shout-Outs to A Reunion of Ghosts

  • Finalist, 2015 National Jewish Book Award in Fiction (JJ Greenberg Memorial Award)
  • Finalist, 2016 Harold U. Ribalow Award (for a 2015 novel with Jewish themes)
  • Winner of the 2015 Edna Ferber Fiction Prize
  • Winner of the 2015 Friends of American Writers Prize
  • Nominated for the 2017 Dublin Literary Award by the New Hampshire and Seattle Public Library Systems
  • Cited as a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus, The Guardian (UK), The Jewish Book Council, The Columbus Dispatch, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Seattle Public Library System, NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, Library Thing, the Halifax Library System, The Strait Times (Singapore), The Philippines Chronicle, and many other critics, libraries, booksellers, and book bloggers.
  • A 2015 Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Achievement Award recipient
  • A Waterstones 2016 New Year Book Club Selection
  • An Indie Next Pick for January 2016 (paperback)
  • One of BookRiot’s “The Best Books of 2015 So Far”
  • AudioFiles’ Earphones Award (audio book edition)
  • Selected by Rosemary Sullivan for the Wall Street Journal‘s Five Best Books feature (June 5, 2015)
  • Daughters of Penelope (The national Greek educational and philanthropic association) Book of the Month (June 2015)
  • One of BookRiot’s Best Books of June 2015
  • One of Good Housekeeping‘s “Must-Read Books for May”
  • One of Buzzfeed’s “16 Awesome Books to Read this Spring”
  • NY Post‘s This Week’s Must Read Books” (April 18, 2015)
  • LitLovers: A Book to Watch (April 2015)
  • An iBook (iTunes) “What We Are Reading” Pick of the Week (April 7, 2015)
  • An Amazon UK Book of the Month (April 2015)
  • BookBrowseReview Editor’s Choice
  • People Magazine‘s Book of the Week (April 6, 2015)
  • DCBooks India Editor’s Pick March 2015
  • An Early Word and Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
  • A Barnes & Noble Best Book of March 2015
  • One of’s 13 Best Books of March 2015
  • One of the Top 10 Reasons to Read Fiction in March, Oakland Public Library
  • Manhattan User’s Guide Top Seven Books of Spring 2015
  • An Amazon Editors’ Choice Best Book for March 2015
  • An IndieNext Pick for April 2015
  • BookPage Cover Story (April 2015)
  • Midwestern Independent Booksellers Association pick for April 2015
  • Wisconsin State Journal Book Club Pick for April 2015
  • Net Galley Top Ten Book for March 2015 (UK)
  • 2015 Jewish Book Council book club choice
  • #7 on Buzzfeed’s 27 Exciting Books of 2015
  • Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
  • Nominee for the 2015 Kirkus Prize
  • The Bookseller‘s Top Five Pick for March 2015 (UK)
  • One of BookWorld’s 2015 Books to Watch (Australia)
  • One of The Bookmark’s books “we’re thrilled about” for 2015
  • Author appearance at 2015 ABA Winter Institute, Heartland Fall Forum
  • Author appearance at the 2015 Jewish Book Council Conference