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The Ghost at the Table
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The Ghost at the Table

2.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,126 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
Strikingly different since childhood and leading dissimilar lives now, sisters Frances and Cynthia have managed to remain "devoted"—as long as they stay on opposite coasts. When Frances arranges to host Thanksgiving at her idyllic New England farmhouse, she envisions a happy family reunion, one that will include the sisters' long-estranged father. Cynthia, however, doesn't ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 20th 2006 by A Shannon Ravenel Book (first published September 22nd 2006)
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10th out of 86 books — 11 voters
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88th out of 137 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,944)
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Jan 28, 2008 Jessie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always love a good dysfunctional holiday family story, and this one didn't disappoint. Anyone who knows me has heard me go on ad nauseam about my theory of subjective reality, and this book is to a large extent about that. Is it great literature? No, but it's extremely readable and engaging, and keeps you guessing as you think about families and the way we all individually perceive and process group experiences.
Mar 22, 2010 K rated it liked it
Recommended to K by: TABBIEs book club
The concept of this nicely written book was pretty interesting, and possibly a good choice for people who like dysfunctional family sagas. Cynnie (an appropriate moniker; short for Cynthia but I kept thinking "cynical," which was probably intentional) reluctantly travels east for Thanksgiving to visit her older sister Frances. Upon reaching Frances's place, she learns that their elderly and ailing estranged father who was supposedly placed in a nursing home will actually be with them for Thanksg ...more
Samra Muslim
Apr 01, 2013 Samra Muslim rated it it was ok
The story had potential, family re-union, skeletons in their closet, Mark Twain's family connection !!!
...But in the end it fell really flat and i felt a bit cheated as a reader as NOTHING REALLY HAPPENED HERE !!!
Sharon Huether
Mar 23, 2014 Sharon Huether rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Ghost at the Table..By Suzanne Berne.. Family dynamics was the theme of thie book. It was very well written; making the characters like someone a person might know personally. Sisters can be very different and see the same event in different ways. Cynthia, estranged from her father and Frances wanting a family get together at Thanksgiving. After the father had a stroke his second wife is devorcing him. What could the daughters do for their father when there was no room available at a rest ho ...more
Nov 26, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I'm giving this book three and a half stars, although I'm not sure it deserves more than three. I enjoyed the story of two sisters who come together for Thanksgiving. Cynthia (the narrator) and Frances are more different than they are similar. They each battle their own demons and struggle to overcome the realities of the childhood that they remember. As is always the case in families, each sister has her own perspective of growing up in the same household.

Here's what annoyed me: Cynthia works f
Mar 04, 2009 Blaire rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
On one level, this book is about character and family dynamics. The characters are people I know very well, in my own family and my friends'. They are real enough to me that the book made me squirm a little at times. On another level, it was about how subjective reality, and therefore memory, is. One person's recollection of family history can differ wildly from another's. We see and remember what our natures allow. We react to our family members in ways that surprise even us. In the end, there ...more
TheRLPL Rice Lake Public Library
Five people attended the Page Turners Book Club discussion of this book on Thursday, November 10 at 6 pm. The consensus was that the family dynamics were intriguing and realistic. The average rating was 3.43 out of 5; the lowest score was a 3 and the Highest was a 4.

Members comments:

3 / 5
“It was an OK read. It starts out with a lot of promise, but doesn’t deliver. However, the family
dynamics were a good illustration of how we all interpret ‘reality’ differently.”

3 / 5
“Some of the parts were co
Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)
Rarely, do I read reviews for books before reading them - no need to spoil the fun, but for some reason I did on this one. Depressing was the overall theme for the reviews, so I went in a skeptic and hoping that this book wasn't the downer it was potrayed to be.

A story that centers around the two remaining sisters of a family that started with three. With a less than wonderful childhood, these girls lost their mom early on and with that they lost their father to another woman. A sister passing
Ron Charles
Nov 28, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Weary of Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie? The predictability of grandma's cranberry sauce? The bovine migration of guests toward the TV while you dry dishes in the kitchen?

Spice up Thanksgiving this year! No, Martha, I'm not talking nutmeg. Here's a chance to fight the soporific effect of turkey with some intellectual stimuli: Three fine writers are publishing novels this fall about family and friends gathering for Thanksgiving. That coincidence provides an unusual opportunity to reflect on the holiday
Dec 06, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
This review was originally posted to Jen in Bookland
2.5 stars

The Ghost at the Table was not a terrible read, but it wasn't amazing either. I did enjoy the way it was written even if it was a bit repetitive and odd. My husband was reading over my shoulder at one point where the one character is talking about diets where people avoid starches and carbohydrates. It is multiple sentences in a row about it and every one uses starches and carbohydrates. Starches and carbohydrates, starches and carbohy
Dec 14, 2015 Ashley rated it did not like it
It took me more than half the book to find some semblance of a plot line. I think that's poor writing when I'm grasping at straws trying to identify what the book it really about. The main character is also a writer who writes novels about famous writers in history from the perspective of their sisters. I felt like THAT was the book Berne really wanted to write, but maybe couldn't (?) and so she tried to stuff it into this one. What resulted was waaaay to much information about these women in hi ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok
Meh. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it, either. I think that all of the characters had a lot of depth, and they all seemed realistic. Jane was perhaps a bit cliched, and I'm sorry, but if one suspects a teenager of cutting themselves, one doesn't just ignore that--one would think that Jane's father, the doctor, would have been all over that, but apparently not.

I didn't really feel like this story went anywhere, and I'm not sure what I was supposed to come away from this book thinking or fee
Dec 13, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a recommended read on Novelist if you liked Gone Girl. I won't say it was a page-turner like Gone Girl but it was an interesting "psychological" read about sibling relationships. I also enjoyed the setting of Thanksgiving in New England. Berne is definitely an author I would read again.
Nov 11, 2009 Doris rated it it was ok
A layered Thanksgiving tale, heavy on disfunctional relationships told with a whine. The narrator spends much energy drawing parallels between her family and the family of Mark Twain. An altogether unappetising way to celebrate Thanksgiving
The Bookloft
Jan 21, 2016 The Bookloft rated it it was amazing
Bookseller: Ev

Three generations of a New England family gather for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. If you're thinking Norman Rockwell, think again. There is no rosy-cheeked grandma here, serving up the holiday feast - she is long gone since & mysteriously dead. No benevolent turkey-carving grandpa either. Incapacitated by a stroke, he is all the more ominous in his silence. Suzanne Berne paints a brilliant , compelling portrait of a disaffected family awash in secret griefs &a
Nick Davies
I was given this 'family saga' to read as part of my book group - I don't think it's a book I would have chosen for myself otherwise. This perchance affected my enjoyment of the book (though I tried not to let it do so) but also meant I gave it a fair go and didn't give it up as 'not my kind of thing' halfway through.

It's a beautifully described tale of a woman attending Thanksgiving at her older sister's, with all kinds of family drama and interpersonal relationship stuff thrown in as the centr
Jul 03, 2016 Sara rated it really liked it
Cynthia Fiske loathes going home, though in actuality home means her sister's house in Concord and not the house in Hartford where she grew up. So when her sister Frances invites her back east to enjoy Thanksgiving with the family, Cynthia has misgivings; misgivings that only grow when she learns that their estranged father will be there as well. It becomes clear right away that not all is exactly what it seems, but Frances is determined to keep up appearances and Cynthia tries to be accomodatin ...more
Eles Jackson
Jul 22, 2014 Eles Jackson rated it it was ok
I read a few other reviews of this book and am glad to find that I am not the only one feeling unfulfilled from this book. I thought it had a great storyline and I was entertained with the difference emotions of the two sisters. But I finished the book not getting the point from either of them. The author also left a lot of things that she introduced, unresolved. I agree with another reader who brought up that the beginning of the book pegged Frances as perhaps suffering from a nervous breakdown ...more
Jan 14, 2009 Dave rated it liked it
Sisters living on opposite sides of the country from each other and have asiduously avoided visiting each other during the Holidays, finally agree to "share" a Thanksgiving together.

The beginning of the book was pretty slow, ( 1st 130 pages) but set the stage for a more interesting end with a few interesting family drama's predicated un very different views of the family "history" they experienced.

Everyone seems to have their own view of past reality - what a surprise -- my favorite line of tr
Apr 30, 2011 Pam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Family drama blahblah and I don't care about Mark Twain either. And why did the main character show up to Thanksgiving dinner wearing a corseted dress made out of velvet she obviously bought at Hot Topic? However, I did like this part:
"You love whom you love love, you fail whom you fail, and almost always we fail the ones we meant to love. Not intentionally, that's just how it happens. We get sick or distracted or frightened and don't listen, or listen to the wrong things. Time passes, we lose t
Jun 26, 2013 Jan rated it liked it
I, like Cynnie, the narrator of “The Ghost at the Table,” am one of three sisters. And reading this novel has prompted me to recall the time one of my sisters announced to me and our other sis -- we were probably all in our 30s at the time -- that she did “not have a happy childhood.” She expected the news would come as a surprise to us -- and she was right. She knew that our young and apparently happy years blinded us to her particular challenges and that it was convenient, even natural, for us ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it
Berne's skillful portrait of two sisters--Cynthia, the narrator, who feels a kinship with the forgotten sisters of famous writers whose lives she records for her "Sisters in History" series (e.g., Lavinia Dickinson and Mildred Keller), and capable, beautiful Frances, her father's favorite and the far more polished of the two--raises fascinating questions about each of the two women and the other members of their family. Cynthia's version of events--both in the present and, especially, in the pas ...more
Jun 29, 2016 Diane rated it liked it
This is one of those novels that I liked but didn't love. In many ways, the family dynamics are portrayed realistically, but I had a hard time warming to any of the characters. Told during the course of a Thanksgiving visit, the novel tells the story of Cynthia (Cynnie) and Frances, the two remaining sisters of a family that survived the passing of a mother at a young age. This death colors the lives of the family in a variety of ways, resulting in disfunction, suspicion and flawed memories. All ...more
Flo Ayala
Feb 11, 2015 Flo Ayala rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Tardé mucho en terminar este libro. A veces es sorprendente como puedo terminar uno de 500 páginas en tres días, pero con uno de 300 me tardo casi dos semanas.
La razón por la que me tardé no fue porque el libro fuera lento, o difícil de leer, sino fue que la trama no me interesaba en absoluto. El libro trata de una chica que va a la casa de su hermana por Acción de Gracias. Y ellas tenían algunos líos con su padre y una niñez no tan buena, ya que su madre había muerto y su padre se había empezad
Lisa Eirene
Sep 26, 2011 Lisa Eirene rated it liked it
I enjoyed her writing style. Sometimes lots of description of settings can drone on but it wasn't that case. The story was interesting, even if it felt unresolved at the end.

It's about a writer living in San Francisco who goes home to the East Coast for Thanksgiving with her family. Her ailing father whom she hasn’t spoken to in years is there, and so is her sister who apparently wants them to have the picture-perfect family and picture-perfect Thanksgiving. The story is about their dysfunction
Bookmarks Magazine

Suzanne Berne's A Crime in the Neighborhood (1997), which won Great Britain's Orange Prize, dealt with a murder, family desertion, and the transformative power of memory. Berne similarly mines sisterly tensions and the ambiguity of memory in Ghost at the Table; comparisons naturally arise to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. The scene that occupies the center of this dark novel flashes back to an invalid mother and her possible poisoning. Parallels between Cynthia's family and that of her newe

Katharine Holden
Jun 29, 2014 Katharine Holden rated it really liked it
Full of wonderful bits of writing, like the bit when the younger sister comes to visit, reluctantly, for Thanksgiving and isn't looking forward to it: "Frances had been collecting Blue Willow China, piece by piece, for years. She loved the calm scenes of willow trees and pagodas and curving footbridges, all uninhabited I realized, as I looked at my plate."
Aug 28, 2014 Nanci rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book had so much potential...storyline, characters, good writing, but it completely fell apart at the end. I don't mind books that leave you wondering, in fact I often prefer that to a "tidy little ending", but the ending of this book just didn't work on any level. I would not recommend this book due to the ending.
May 10, 2016 Kristal rated it liked it
A heartbreaking and realistic look at father/daughter and sister relationships and the resentments that eat away at the ties that bind over the years. It's not the most uplifting story but the characters draw you in and keep you invested until the end.
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“In my experience, people's sorrows are always in danger of bursting out; it's only through careful inattention that they can be contained.” 3 likes
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