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The Ghost at the Table

2.97 of 5 stars 2.97  ·  rating details  ·  932 ratings  ·  171 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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Community Reviews

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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 3 of 5 stars
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
Sharon Huether
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
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
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
Samra Muslim
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 !!!
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
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
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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
Eles Jackson
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
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
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
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
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
Lisa Eirene
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
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."
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.
I just couldn't get into this book and abandoned it after reading the first quarter. The main theme of the book seemed to be that three sisters were estranged from their father. This kept coming up over and over again. I suspect that the reasons for the estrangement would become more apparent as the book progressed and maybe the author was going to examine how dysfunctional families keep up appearances. However I got frustrated that the fact of the estrangement kept being reiterated with very li ...more
Christine Newton
This novel does a great job of recreating the frustration and bewilderment that sisters can feel when their memories don't jive and they fail to connect. Each one of us really does come from a different family, despite growing up in the same household with the same parents. Our familial relationships are so dependent on our ability to accurately interpret our parents' and siblings' behaviors. Age differences will inevitably skew our ability to interpret our worlds. As it turns out, things we tak ...more
another meanderer. lots of minusha detail that one would assume would relate to the main thread of the story. This is the second book of hers I'm reading and I've come to discover that her writing style is consistently about expanding on details and descriptions of the backdrop that may or may not have anything to really do with moving the plot along (mostly not, I think :).

I was a little disappointed with the conclusion not quite understanding how all the build up to the mystery suddenly sort o
don't know what I loved Better the book or the author.. this was the first Suzanne Berne I ever read.. but I immediately reserved all that the library had to offer.
When I first added this book to my "Goodreads" shelf, I saw that it didn't seem to have a very high rating. I couldn't understand it; it seemed like a well written, interesting story of two sisters who spend Thanksgiving together, and try to deal with their difficult childhood. But the story ends up this bizarre tale of their mothers sickness and their father's infidelity, and how each sister had such a different memory of what happened that we are left not knowing which one to believe. It ended ...more
Matthew Crehan Higgins
The best way to describe this book is disappointing. There were so many things it could have been. Estranged sisters learning their common ground. A woman returning from home in a big city to find a new focus she'd been avoiding. Colorful scenes of a multi-generational, disparate and multi-ethnic holiday dinner among mostly strangers. Instead it is a mish mash of all of that, throwing everything together, attempting to resolve it all very quickly, and tossing in resolution references to plot poi ...more
Book was ok. Author left a fairly important point unaddressed at the end, which bothered me.
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I loved this book. It was everything I hoped Sing Them Home would be. It's a book about the relationship between two sisters and how they remember their childhood and the events that happened when they were children. Berne perfectly captures how memories of the same time can be so different and how we perceive ourselves may not be how others see us. The only wish I could have is that Berne would write a sister novel from the perspective of the other sister!
P.S. No swearing or sex!
Linda Lilley
I enjoyed reading this and found the characters well drawn. However, it was frustrating in its storyline and I never quite got the point of it all.
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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.” 1 likes
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