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To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts Paperback – August 8, 2017
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"What is remembered; what is missed; what will never be again . . . all these are addressed with the tenderness of a wise observer whose heart is large enough, kind enough, to embrace them all without judgment. . . . intense and finely crafted . . . . her stories reach into the hidden places of the heart and break them open to healing light, offering a touch of grace and hope of reconciliation." --Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"The stories center on the complexity of family relationships with such empathy and humanity that novelist Steve Yarbrough called the book 'nothing short of magnificent.' ... Summie grounds readers in reality just as they become lost in her beautiful prose.... To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts does not shy from life s hardest moments, but its sorrow is not gratuitous. Summie is a writer who approaches life as a whole, both good and bad, rooted in history and place, and her elegant prose shines in this collection." --Chapter 16.org
"It's been a long time since I read a collection of stories that amazed me from cover to cover, but that's what Caitlin Summie's To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts did. With the grace and elegance of a master, Summie lays bare our vulnerabilities and desires and hopes in equal measure. The result is one stunning story after another, each as lovely and heartfelt as the one before. If you're a fan of Grace Paley or Ann Beattie or Tobias Wolfe, you ll surely find something to love in these pages." --Peter Geye, author of Wintering
About the Author
Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, and Long Story, Short. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003.
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I wish this collection lasted longer, because the stories in this collection are some of the most beautifully written I’ve ever read. Not every author has the gift of reaching into human beings, pulling out all the parts that make us whole and then creating characters that you swear are real. These are flawed beings, struggling with different memories, fighting fears, curious, questioning, broken, dying and every emotion is raw, genuine. Every thought and feeling is intrinsically characteristic of human behavior. They have misplaced anger, are sometimes selfish, lonely, some are broken having only a ghost of a memory of their loved one, others are furious with their family and the many ways they’ve failed them. There have been accidents that altered the course of lives, one wheelchair bound and determined to run from the noise of it all, in the middle of nature not kind to wheelchairs. Another is dying in bed, cared for by his adult granddaughter in the story Fish Eyes In Moonlight, a title I absolutely adore. “My mind was the same, my soul was the same soul, but my body was a body I did not know.” I felt I was dying with him, slowly crawling to a final farewell, as this thing will one day happen to us all, the curling in, dissipating and yet the mind still violently alive, not quite ready to go and yet too tired to cling. He, for a while, becomes the child they wanted, in a strange sad way. It was a tender story, powerful.
In Geographies of the Heart, two sisters experience the withering away of their loved one that puts a strain on their bond. As Sarah fumes, Glennie inexplicable absents herself and all she can see is her fury merged with grief. All the ‘should have beens’, all the expectation Sarah feels, but the things waiting to be said on her tongue have their hooks in the past. One wonders just what really bothers Sarah about Glennie’s abandonment. The angrier she gets, understanding dawns.
The first story, Tags is about children whose fathers are lost to war one way or another. From the moment I tucked into the book, I was catching my breath and aching. Jimmy has his dad’s dog tags and a habit of rubbing them back and forth. “That’s how I remember those days; Jimmy and me sitting on the curb, tired of marbles, tired of tin, him with that sound of his father, and me with nothing of mine but his name.” There went my heart, this author plays with your emotions, because it seems so real. Because, I know, somewhere it is real for someone.
This is a collection that will reel you in.On the surface, it doesn’t seem as if anything enormous is happening, but it’s the quiet moments that murdered me. It’s the characters confronting their pain, struggles, hopes that had me enraptured. For a while, I lived in the emotional state of these characters, I think we all do at some point, if we’re alive to the crawl and claw of life. Each story moved me for different reasons, in many short story collections not every story resonates with me, but in To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, they all did. I truly hope that Caitlin Hamilton Summie is already working on something new, because she has made a fan of me! Read it- beautiful! This review is from my blog, I absolutely loved it. https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
The writing is lovely and evocative, transporting us into another's life and world.
A girl whose father is a WWII pilot the admits that the war's generals were spoken of as if her family knew them personally. "I knew these men better than my father."
A woman's sister dies in a car crash. Their mother had died choking on a peanut butter sandwich. (This is not a joke. I was barely twenty when I met a man whose sister chocked to death on a peanut butter sandwich. I worry about this every time I have a PB sandwich.) The woman misses being close to her brother. She drinks too much.
I related to a woman who lasted only six months in New York City, lacking inner city street smarts and an understanding of the rules. My husband and I lived in the inner city for a year and a half before leaving.
The fierce need for independence drives a paraplegic to the family's deep woods cabin after his divorce. His brother fears for his safety living alone and pressures him to return.
A woman visits her grandmother in the nursing home. She is desperately curious about her grandmother's sister, who no one speaks of. Yet that sister's name is embroidered on the family patchwork quilt. The woman asks her mother about this missing family member and is told that the grandmother asked her not to talk about it, "not to carry that particular ghost through the generations." The woman presses for information in a battle over who would control the past.
A man who grew up on a farm grapples with his son's wanting a different life for himself. The son fears his newborn son will never understand who he is without understanding the farm.
The death of a grandfather brings division between sisters, one who attended him in his illness and death while the other stayed away. Their own needs drive them apart as they try to find reconciliation.
A single mother watches her only child, a daughter, leave for college. She had gone to California instead of taking a college scholarship, returning home pregnant. Now she is a mother, learning how to let go.
An elderly man is bedridden in his son's house, his memory teeming with ghosts. He knows his son and daughter-in-law are getting weary while he lingers on. I was reminded of my grandfather Milo, my grandmother's second husband. He lived to be over 101, outlasting two wives and a daughter and three step-children. He wondered why God did not take him. He was unable to walk and was blind, living in my aunt's home. To have one's mind and a failing body is a horrible fate.
After a miscarriage, a wife takes a break, leaving her husband to struggle on his own for a few days. He is comforted by a neighbor's dog who has adopted him as a surrogate owner. The neighbors are friendly but keep to themselves. The man realizes he did not even know his own wife's heart. He contemplates loss and grief and how we are all separate and alone in grief.
I purchased this as an ebook and read the stories over several weeks. I love these short stories; they are like a concentrated laser light into the human soul.
Owner of Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, promotion for books, authors, publishers, and literary organizations, Caitlin has represented several books I have reviewed.
Most recent customer reviews
TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS is a unique and tastefully written collection of ten heart heavy stories.Read more
Caitlin is a real craftsperson, and that it most evident in the...Read more