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The Ghost at the Table

3.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,428 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Strikingly different since childhood and leading very dissimilar lives now, sisters Frances and Cynthia have nevertheless managed to remain "devoted"—so long as they stay on opposite coasts. But with the reappearance of their elderly, long-estranged father they find themselves reunited for a cold, snowy Thanksgiving week—a reunion that awakens sleeping tensions and old ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 22nd 2006 by A Shannon Ravenel Book
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Average rating 3.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,428 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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Jan 27, 2008 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. ...more
Mar 20, 2010 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 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 !!!
Dec 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-book, fiction
I’ll share the positives first - good writing and nice idea to incorporate literary sisterly figures and their backgrounds in the novel. Such as Alcott, Dickinson, Twain ...
However, that wasn’t enough to drive the novel at all. The characters were so unlikeable. This story is about two sisters, their ailing father and the secrets they each hold about the death surrounding their mother/wife. All this, during Thanksgiving week, is entwined, vaguely shared, with Mark Twain and an heirloom organ. I
Ron Charles
Nov 28, 2013 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
Mar 04, 2009 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
Sharon Huether
Mar 21, 2014 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
May 08, 2012 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
Jun 26, 2013 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
Rachael Hobson
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
A dysfunctional family get together at Thanksgiving.

I enjoyed the writing and the overall premise of you can’t hold baggage in regards to your family. They are going to disappoint you at one point or another. I, however, don’t think it should be applied to this family. Sometimes, family is just toxic. I also thought there were a lot of holes in regards to the sisters’s past and the current drama. I wish some things wrapped up better.
Dec 13, 2014 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. ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is about current and past dysfunctional family relationships. They come to a head as the family members convene together at Thanksgiving. Of course outsiders are invited and add to the drama and dynamics.

There are family secrets, misgivings and a distortion of reality between two sisters. They both recall things differently and have their own very different perceptions especially during their formative years.

I don’t know who is telling the truth - if there is a truth. I think the les
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
At first I thought this book would be a stupid fluff piece of nonsense after reading the prologue. I was going to DNF it. I gave it another chance and read the first chapter. What kept me reading was Cynthia’s research and writing about authors and their forgotten children or siblings.
I didn’t know Emily Dickinson had a sister.
The similarities of Mark Twain and Cynthia’s father weave its way into the story.
Cynthia was the youngest of three girls, with a sick mother who spent her days in bed a
Aug 10, 2011 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
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
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
Oct 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Lauri Saplad
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not your typical family Thanksgiving. Cynthia has purposely distanced herself from her remaining family, moving all the way to California while they remain in New England. She's refused repeated invitations to come home for Thanksgiving, preferring to visit only in the summers when everyone can be out of doors. Her sister, Frances, is having some sort of psychotic break while still remaining intensely controlling. Her father is getting a divorce, has had a stroke and other serious health issues. ...more
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm beginning to feel a little odd ALWAYS giving books four stars. Thing is, I don't read further if I'm not really liking a book! This is a strange story by a not-always-terribly-likable protagonist, but I enjoyed the different facets. There's one scene where she's eavesdropping on two friends discussing someone, and she assumes it's her sister, I think the sister's husband believes they're discussing her, and I (the reader!) assumed they were discussing the sister's daughter! The mystery is no ...more
Fiona Bell-Currie
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Believable characters in a strange place, emotionally and geographically. Strong writing, at times painful, especially as each sister picks over the other, the aged parent in the middle. A lot of parallel situations with my own mother and sister. Not convinced the title or the book cover reflects the strength of this novel. Great writing - read it!
If you haven't read Berne's foirst, do - A Crime in the Neighbourhood, winner of the Orange Prize 1999.
Ciara Theriot
Jan 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was extremely boring and took me forever to finish. I actually started skipping pages and skim reading just to get through it. It had some potential but ultimately it fell flat. The author used several pages to describe things of no value and I’m still not sure what the plot was. Waste of time.
Nov 11, 2009 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
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Not sure I liked this book at all. Maybe I need to discuss it with my book club to see if I am missing the point. All I got out of reading it was that people, even siblings, remember incidents differently.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very complex, intense story..... all meat and no fluff.
Lisa van Zyl-Jones
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strange, intriguing and well written. Enjoyed this rather different book.
Marion Roux
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dynamics of family - how memories differ and affect perceptions
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
An unusual, and slightly disturbing, book about families and relationships.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-11
i really liked it.
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