Mary Swan

My Ghosts

My-GhostsFrom Mary Swan, the bestselling author of the Scotiabank Giller finalist The Boys in the Trees, comes a dazzling and intricate new novel that tracks one family across 150 years, unearthing long-buried secrets and capturing moments that reverberate unexpectedly across the generations.

In My Ghosts, with an uncanny eye for the telling detail, Mary Swan brings to vivid life a household of Scottish orphans trying to make their way in Toronto in 1879. The youngest, Clare, has rheumatic fever; the oldest brother has run away. The fate of them all rests on the responsible Ben, the irrepressible Charlie and the two middle sisters: Kez, sarcastic with big ears and a kind heart, and Nan, benignly round but with a hidden talent for larceny and mischief. Fascinating lives spool out from these siblings: a cast of indelible strivers and schemers, spinsters and unhappy spouses, star-crossed lovers and hidden adulterers, victims of war and of suicide—proof of how eventful the lives of “ordinary families” can be.

Swan leaves us with the contemporary Clare, widowed and moodily packing up her house. She isn’t sure what she’ll do next, and she knows nothing of her family’s past. But we do: we recognize the ghosts and echoes, the genetic patterns and the losses that have shaped her as much as her own choices and heartbreaks.

My Ghosts is entrancing fiction that pulls you into its characters’ lives at the same time as it inspires you to think about your own ghosts, your own forgotten past.

Read an Excerpt


“Mary Swan is a formidable novelist … ambitious in the scope of her narrative, fluid and precise in language.”
National Post

“a remarkable, wonderfully written treatise on time, memory and the fraught politics of family life.”
London Free Press

“A short review is inadequate to do My Ghosts justice, to capture its many nuances and the beauty of its prose.”
Salon Books, Telegraph Journal

“Swan writes beautifully of being part of a family and of being alone, of waiting all your life to see a face you know you’ll never see again, a face you might not even recognize if you did. … This may not be a ghost story, but it is guaranteed to haunt you.”  
Globe & Mail

“… a literary talent possessed of a unique eloquence. … In the end, Swan’s ghosts haunt us, not only for the beauty of their distinct voices, but for the questions they leave unanswered.”
Quill & Quire

“Swan writes beautifully about the interplay of chance and choice in people’s lives and the various ways that losses and joys reverberate through generations, haunting the present with all that came before and all that might have been. These are affecting stories of ordinary lives told with extraordinary clarity and grace.”
Nancy Richler, author of The Imposter Bride

My Ghosts is intricate and compelling, a tapestry of interlinked narratives that shimmer and flow. Part family saga, part meditation on time, space, and memory, this mesmerizing novel lingers long after the last page. A literary feast, poignant and wise.”
Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

“…readers will not only be compelled to follow this family of richly drawn, enigmatic characters until the end — they will be haunted by the experience.”
Kitchener Record

“My Ghosts is a book to immerse yourself in, to put under your pillow and absorb through your pores, to alert you to “the ghosts that trail everyone,” to the way our lives are not just our own but part of a long chain of stories…”
The Bookshelf Review

“Swan is an expert at conjuring the inner lives of her characters.”

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