The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne

The Ghost at the Table: A Novel


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 understand how Frances can ignore the past their father's presence revives, a past that includes suspicions about their mother's death twenty-five years earlier.

As Thanksgiving Day arrives, with a houseful of guests looking forward to dinner, the sisters continue to struggle with different versions of a shared past, their conflict escalating to a dramatic, suspenseful climax.


I really like reading/watching holiday specific things. This year I realized I should search for Thanksgiving books as I don't normally read them. I wasn't sure how many I would find, but I did find a few. This was one of them and included in my countdown to US Thanksgiving!

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 carbohydrates, starches and carbohydrates. He was just like has the author never heard of pronouns? It made me laugh, but it is true. It was written like that throughout. 

The characters were also not realistic, at least not like anyone I have encountered. They were so strange the way they were written. The way the thought and spoke was just odd to me. 

"'She probably made him eat muesli every morning. Thing of that.'
'You're right,' she said. 'I'll think of that.'"

The entire way through the story I just kept thinking what is going on with these people. Every single one of them was so odd and this weird character that I just didn't fully understand. I was often just like what is even happening? Why is she doing this? What the what? It was just strange, but I liked it at the same time. 

So Cynthia comes for Thanksgiving dinner with her sister Frances and her family. She shows up and finds that she has to go down with her sister to pick up her father whom she has not spoken to in forever. She is still angry about everything he put them through and can't see how Frances can even talk to him after all that happened. So I kept waiting for what happened and it just never really made sense. It was just...I expected more. The writing, while interesting, never made me really care about anyone. I guess it is supposed to be a mystery, what really happened to their mom, but if so I missed that. I never really wondered what happened to the mom or realized that I was supposed to be trying to figure out who did it until the very end. It just didn't seem that important, even though that is where all the issues with the father started. 

Then it just kind of ends. I got to the end and thought why did I even read this? You read the very last pages and I thought really? This is what this is? Why in the world would this be what was written as a kind of what really happened? It just doesn't make anyone look good. They all look kind of crazy and messed up. Frances is this strange woman that seems like she needs some help as she is just not right in the head, the husband and kids are not much better. Really no one seems right the way they are portrayed. It was just a weird read. As I said I did enjoy the way it was written and I was enjoying it enough until I got to the end and then it was just like why did I waste my time with this? So the end just kind of ruined the strange enjoyment I had with the rest of the book. 

Rating: ★ ★1/2

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