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In the panoramic tradition of Charles Fraziers fiction, Phantoms is a fierce saga of American culpability. A Vietnam vet still reeling from war, John Frazier finds himself an unwitting witness to a confrontation, decades in the making, between two steely matriarchs: his aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and her former neighbor, Kimiko Takahashi. John comes to learn that in the In the panoramic tradition of Charles Frazier’s fiction, Phantoms is a fierce saga of American culpability. A Vietnam vet still reeling from war, John Frazier finds himself an unwitting witness to a confrontation, decades in the making, between two steely matriarchs: his aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and her former neighbor, Kimiko Takahashi. John comes to learn that in the onslaught of World War II, the Takahashis had been displaced as once-beloved tenants of the Wilson orchard and sent to an internment camp. One question has always plagued both families: What happened to the Takahashi son, Ray, when he returned from service and found that Placer County was no longer home—that nowhere was home for a Japanese American? As layers of family secrets unravel, the harrowing truth forces John to examine his own guilt. In prose recalling Thomas Wolfe, Phantoms is a stunning exploration of the ghosts of American exceptionalism that haunt us today.


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In the panoramic tradition of Charles Fraziers fiction, Phantoms is a fierce saga of American culpability. A Vietnam vet still reeling from war, John Frazier finds himself an unwitting witness to a confrontation, decades in the making, between two steely matriarchs: his aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and her former neighbor, Kimiko Takahashi. John comes to learn that in the In the panoramic tradition of Charles Frazier’s fiction, Phantoms is a fierce saga of American culpability. A Vietnam vet still reeling from war, John Frazier finds himself an unwitting witness to a confrontation, decades in the making, between two steely matriarchs: his aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and her former neighbor, Kimiko Takahashi. John comes to learn that in the onslaught of World War II, the Takahashis had been displaced as once-beloved tenants of the Wilson orchard and sent to an internment camp. One question has always plagued both families: What happened to the Takahashi son, Ray, when he returned from service and found that Placer County was no longer home—that nowhere was home for a Japanese American? As layers of family secrets unravel, the harrowing truth forces John to examine his own guilt. In prose recalling Thomas Wolfe, Phantoms is a stunning exploration of the ghosts of American exceptionalism that haunt us today.

30 review for Phantoms

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marcy Dermansky

    Christian Kiefer's PHANTOMS tells a story I haven't read in fiction before, giving us a Japanese family forced to leave there home and live in an interment camp at the end of World War II. And this is what I love about fiction, a writer taking me some place I haven't imagined before. The opening chapter, about a soldier, a young man -- both American and Japanese, a soldier -- returning to the home that he has been exiled from, is poignant and riveting and truly heartbreaking. The narrative takes Christian Kiefer's PHANTOMS tells a story I haven't read in fiction before, giving us a Japanese family forced to leave there home and live in an interment camp at the end of World War II. And this is what I love about fiction, a writer taking me some place I haven't imagined before. The opening chapter, about a soldier, a young man -- both American and Japanese, a soldier -- returning to the home that he has been exiled from, is poignant and riveting and truly heartbreaking. The narrative takes off in interesting ways from there..

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    There are times when I get really mad at myself. I put off reading this book because I thought it would be sad and depressing. Was I ever wrong. This is a beautifully written, lyrical story about what happened to a Japanese family during WWII in Calif. Although they were sent to an internment camp, the story revolves around their son, Ray, who enlisted and fought in the war. The story tells what happens to him when he returns home to his former home and friends. The story is told There are times when I get really mad at myself. I put off reading this book because I thought it would be sad and depressing. Was I ever wrong. This is a beautifully written, lyrical story about what happened to a Japanese family during WWII in Calif. Although they were sent to an internment camp, the story revolves around their son, Ray, who enlisted and fought in the war. The story tells what happens to him when he returns home to his former home and friends. The story is told retrospectively through the eyes of a Vietnam vet who is struggling to come to terms with his service. The vet moves in with grandmother in the Sacramento Valley and tries to put his life back together. He runs into the major characters of Ray's life and slowly discovers his story. It is written like a memoir and at times I had to catch myself thinking it was. It is a magnificent story that really makes you aware of the times in a very human way. I highly recommend this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Sherman famously said, War is hell, but the real hell is how it dehumanizes us and forces us to be less than who we are. In this novel, Christian Kiefer takes arguably two of the four most hideous parts of Americas past the Japanese internment and Vietnam (the other two being slavery and the current caging of immigrant children) and weaves a tale of the ghosts that haunt us. Ray Takahashi is a young American of Japanese descent whose family is forced into an internment camp even while he fights Sherman famously said, “War is hell”, but the real hell is how it dehumanizes us and forces us to be less than who we are. In this novel, Christian Kiefer takes arguably two of the four most hideous parts of America’s past – the Japanese internment and Vietnam (the other two being slavery and the current caging of immigrant children) and weaves a tale of the ghosts that haunt us. Ray Takahashi is a young American of Japanese descent whose family is forced into an internment camp even while he fights for the American forces. He leaves behind a young sweetheart – his forbidden love. Over a generation later, John Frazier, a burnt-out Vietnam Vet and novelist, finds himself inadvertently immersed in Ray’s story – what happened and why – precisely at a time when he is trying to tackle his own ghosts. Adding to the mix are the two matriarchs – Ray’s mother and John’s elderly aunt – who may be the key to closure. The book focuses on themes that unfortunately resonate through the years: privilege and prejudice, the thin line between love and hatred, the small gap between American exceptionalism and imperialism, the reality of life vs. the burning need to pursue phantoms and loose threads. The writing – as in Christian Kiefer’s past book, The Animals – is lush and moving. From time to time, I couldn't help but feel that some of the plot revelations were just a tad too convenient and the resolutions a bit too pat (particularly the ending). All in all, it’s an engaging read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    There really is a Newcastle, California. And 70 years ago, a thriving orchard business of fruit production despite its being in the heart of "gold country." As WWII breaks, two families personify the dichotomy of the population -- The landowning Wilsons and their tenants, the indispensable Takahashis who have been instrumental in rejuvenating the orchards and making them flourish. This book begins at the war's end, with Ray Takahashi "home" from the European front, but all is not what it first There really is a Newcastle, California. And 70 years ago, a thriving orchard business of fruit production despite its being in the heart of "gold country." As WWII breaks, two families personify the dichotomy of the population -- The landowning Wilsons and their tenants, the indispensable Takahashis who have been instrumental in rejuvenating the orchards and making them flourish. This book begins at the war's end, with Ray Takahashi "home" from the European front, but all is not what it first seems. Interwoven is the story of John Frazier twenty plus years later, related to the Wilsons, fighting his own demons from the Vietnam War. What Christian Kiefer has managed to do is craft an account incorporating the effects of war not only on the young men who enter service and have their lives forever changed, but also the lives of those around them. Utilizing beautiful prose and involving technique, the stories intersect and diverge, and the whole truth is not revealed until very late even if the reader thinks, aha, I've got it, pretty early on. Exceptionally fine.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    "Enduring the seemingly unbearable with grace and dignity." The Buddhist belief in "gaman" links all the pieces of this well-researched historical novel. John Frazer, ill with PTSD and addiction, returns from Vietnam a broken soul. As his attempts to heal falter, fail and then succeed a bit, he is enmeshed in the story of his Aunt Evelyn Wilson's family and that of the Takahashi family who live in Placer County, California before, during and after World War II. Without dumping too much of the "Enduring the seemingly unbearable with grace and dignity." The Buddhist belief in "gaman" links all the pieces of this well-researched historical novel. John Frazer, ill with PTSD and addiction, returns from Vietnam a broken soul. As his attempts to heal falter, fail and then succeed a bit, he is enmeshed in the story of his Aunt Evelyn Wilson's family and that of the Takahashi family who live in Placer County, California before, during and after World War II. Without dumping too much of the mystery, Frazer ends up being the link to uncover and discover what really happened during Japanese internment and the aftermath of WW II. As lost as he is, he nonetheless pursues the stories over many years as he goes to school, marries, has a family and tries to write the book long planned. This is a moving and truthful novel, full of suspense and sorrow and surprise. Would that human beings learn from their mistakes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jk

    I received a free advance reading copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaways program and would like to thank anyone involved in making that happen! This is a quietly beautiful novel that deals with the aftermath of war and how it reverberates through generations. It tells the heartbreaking story of two intertwined families, ripped apart by World War II and tenuously reunited by old family secrets and mysteries after the Vietnam war. This novel is a gorgeously written, slow-burner, with a I received a free advance reading copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaways program and would like to thank anyone involved in making that happen! This is a quietly beautiful novel that deals with the aftermath of war and how it reverberates through generations. It tells the heartbreaking story of two intertwined families, ripped apart by World War II and tenuously reunited by old family secrets and mysteries after the Vietnam war. This novel is a gorgeously written, slow-burner, with a satisfying conclusion. I was familiar with the Japanese term gaman but this story really personified it and brought my understanding of the concept to a whole new level. Highly recommended, and I will be seeking out more by this author!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    It's 1969. A strung-out Vietnam vet returns to his California hometown where he encounters an aunt he doesn't know well but who asks him to drive her to San Jose so she can visit an old friend. Upon arriving, his aunt and her friend, an elderly Japanese lady, do not seem especially happy to see each other and in fact sit in the latter's house, barely speaking. Given that setup, it would be harder to write a bad novel than a good one. But Mr. Kiefer seems to be a man of uncommon talents. The worst It's 1969. A strung-out Vietnam vet returns to his California hometown where he encounters an aunt he doesn't know well but who asks him to drive her to San Jose so she can visit an old friend. Upon arriving, his aunt and her friend, an elderly Japanese lady, do not seem especially happy to see each other and in fact sit in the latter's house, barely speaking. Given that setup, it would be harder to write a bad novel than a good one. But Mr. Kiefer seems to be a man of uncommon talents. The worst student in a fiction workshop knows enough to start the book with that scene, but Mr. Kiefer sticks it halfway through "Phantoms," when the reader already knows why the two old women hate each other. Thus we're stuck with the reactions of the narrator, John Frazier, a man who is credible as neither an addict (he managed to get hooked on black tar heroin 25 years before it was being sold in the US) nor a veteran (for a PTSD sufferer, he's remarkably clinical about all the traumas he endured during the war -- all his memories read like summaries of case studies he read in a library). The good Mr. Frazier is, however, believable as an aspiring bad writer, someone who just stumbled across the word "topography" in the Thesaurus and couldn't wait to use it in as many metaphors as possible ("topography of the mind," "topography of the heart," probably a couple of other examples I've repressed). In fact, Frazier is such a pompous, unlikely stiff that until the last paragraph of "Phantoms," I was half-expecting Mr. Kiefer to sell out the prior 232 1/2 pages by admitting that the book was a clever satire of bad 20th century modernism. I still clung to that hope when I went Googling for profiles of the author, whose previous novel, "The Animals," hadn't annoyed me anywhere near this much. I knew Mr. Kiefer was serious about "Phantoms" when I read that he idolized Richard Ford. I should have known. "Wet heavy snow that seemed to come down in great gobs like phlegmy spittle" is a bad enough analogy for "The Sportswriter." I understand the author's impulse to pay tribute to both World War II and Vietnam veterans. I understand his interest in writing a book about the Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans imprisoned in interment camps during World War II. What I don't understand is why he felt compelled to honor these groups with such a lousy book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mai Nguyễn

    As a Vietnamese, I was curious to read this book, having heard that one of the characters of PHANTOMS is a Vietnam War veteran. I was particularly interested in the way the author, Christian Kiefer, represents post-war trauma in his fiction. And I was not disappointed. PHANTOMS highlights the facts that wars do not end when the related battles end. Wars kills not just soldiers but also their family members. These truths are reflected beautifully in this powerful, heart-breaking and incredibly As a Vietnamese, I was curious to read this book, having heard that one of the characters of PHANTOMS is a Vietnam War veteran. I was particularly interested in the way the author, Christian Kiefer, represents post-war trauma in his fiction. And I was not disappointed. PHANTOMS highlights the facts that wars do not end when the related battles end. Wars kills not just soldiers but also their family members. These truths are reflected beautifully in this powerful, heart-breaking and incredibly poetic novel. I love this novel also because the author did a tremendous amount of research to be able to paint a realistic picture about the harsh treatments that Japanese Americans received. The Japanese army indeed did horrific things in many countries, including in my homeland Vietnam, but there was no reason for ordinary Japanese or people of Japanese decent to have suffered from these types of treatments. PHANTOMS, therefore, is important in highlighting the mistakes of our history in the hope that these mistakes won't be repeated again. I have been lucky to come across many good books in 2019 and PHANTOMS is definitely one of my favorite reads. My heart sings or weeps at every word of this novel, and this is the reason that I highly recommend PHANTOMS to anyone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Gorgeous writing, foreshadowing that draws the reader to turn pages, wonderful characters, and an exploration of deeply American themes propelled me to read Phantoms by Christian Kiefer in two sittings. John Frazier returns from Vietnam a shattered man. He moves in with his grandmother and takes a job pumping gas. He becomes involved with two formidable women whose husbands were once best friends--a confidence man, becoming the bearer of the secrets of their entwined family histories dating to Gorgeous writing, foreshadowing that draws the reader to turn pages, wonderful characters, and an exploration of deeply American themes propelled me to read Phantoms by Christian Kiefer in two sittings. John Frazier returns from Vietnam a shattered man. He moves in with his grandmother and takes a job pumping gas. He becomes involved with two formidable women whose husbands were once best friends--a confidence man, becoming the bearer of the secrets of their entwined family histories dating to the 1940s. Aunt Evelyn Wilson's husband ran an orchard. Kimiko Takahashi was a Japanese picture bride. Their husband worked together, friends over their shared love of the orchard. Their children grew up together. The ugliness of racism underlies the story of star-crossed lovers separated by WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese Removal Act, a story that ends in tragedy. They would love each other. In secrecy and in silence. And then all of it would blown away, not only because of history but because of their very lives, adrift as they were in the swirling spinning sea between one continent and another.~ from Phantoms by Christian Kiefer John has struggled for years to contain his experiences through his writing. His early promise as a 'war writer' has not been fulfilled. It is time to tell this other story, Ray Takahashi's story. If the kind of experiences I had in Vietnam have already become a tired American myth, over told, overanalyzed, then perhaps this is a good enough reason to justify what I am trying to do in these pages, returning to the 1969 of my memory not to write about Vietnam at long last but instead to narrate the story of someone I did not know but whose time in Place County has come to feel inextricably tied to my own. ~from Phantom by Christian Kiefer I love the language of this book. John notes that he had read Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe twice,"its sentences consuming me. O Lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again," and was reading it again after the war. I believe I have read it four times! I discovered Wolfe at sixteen in 1969, and fell in love with his language. This grim story also is a celebration of life. The ending is a beautiful affirmation that brought strong emotions and a catch in my throat. There are days--many of them--when golden light seems to pour forth from the very soil.~from Phantoms by Christian Kiefer I purchased an ebook.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I made a decision earlier this year to read more books by or about people of color, which was why I picked up Phantoms. It is the story of two Placer County famiies, one white and one Japanese in the days of World War II. Both families are affected by internments, prejudice, and more. The Takahashis are tenants on the Wilson farm, helping Mr. Wilson with his orchards. Their elder son Raymond, is great friends with the Wilson kids, Jimmy and Helen. When Japanese families are rounded up and taken I made a decision earlier this year to read more books by or about people of color, which was why I picked up Phantoms. It is the story of two Placer County famiies, one white and one Japanese in the days of World War II. Both families are affected by internments, prejudice, and more. The Takahashis are tenants on the Wilson farm, helping Mr. Wilson with his orchards. Their elder son Raymond, is great friends with the Wilson kids, Jimmy and Helen. When Japanese families are rounded up and taken to internment camps, the Wilsons vow to look after the Takahashis' property. Ray becomes one of the Nisei veterans, second generation Japanese-Americans who joined the military and fought on the side of the US. When he returns to his home town, he finds the Wilsons arrayed against him for reasons he doesn't understand. Cut forward to the late 1960s, when Mrs. Wilson's nephew, John, is staying with his grandmother in that same town ... and a variety of circumstances set him on the trail of what happened to Raymond Takahashi. Christian Kiefer's novel is a heartbreaking, realistic story filled with people who feel real to the reader. They all have their foibles; none of them are perfect. Yet, they are relatable and I found myself commiserating with many of them as I read. Toward the end of the book, tears threatened to spill; in many ways, this is not a tale for the faint of heart. Highly recommended for those who enjoy literary fiction, with a smattering of the sociology of prejudice woven throughout.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    Phantoms, by Christian Kiefer, is a captivating and beautifully written story that weaves in the concept of gaman, a Buddhist term meaning enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity. The novel touches upon historic events: two wars and the Japanese internment camps. It is a story of survival and loss, of family, and nationalism. Our first person narrator is John Frazier, just home from Vietnam in 1969. John is clearly struggling (we would see it clearly as PTSD today), and he “Phantoms”, by Christian Kiefer, is a captivating and beautifully written story that weaves in the concept of “gaman”, a Buddhist term meaning “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” The novel touches upon historic events: two wars and the Japanese internment camps. It is a story of survival and loss, of family, and nationalism. Our first person narrator is John Frazier, just home from Vietnam in 1969. John is clearly struggling (we would see it clearly as PTSD today), and he goes to live with his grandmother in a rural fruit-farming town in Placer County California. There he meets the stern and enigmatic Mrs. Wilson, who leads him to the Takahashi family and the mystery of their son Ray, who years ago had returned from the European theater in WWII. Kiefer’s strong and elegant prose, with perfect pacing, propels the reader through this complicated story of human nature; loving, suffering, fighting, grieving, and ultimately surviving. The word “phantom” has a dual meaning here, and I was thoroughly satisfied when I turned the final page.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly Brooks

    Phantoms, for me, was a slow start. The first couple pages begin with percussive language exploring the return of a soldier I didn't know and then morphed slowly into a slower narrative. This is why it took me a few days to get into it. Bear with me--I'm going to explain why I love it in a moment. This slow burn is the lull, the period after a climax of a novel just left by the character we don't know yet. The quiet. Vietnam war. It takes off and I found myself immersed in this give and take. Phantoms, for me, was a slow start. The first couple pages begin with percussive language exploring the return of a soldier I didn't know and then morphed slowly into a slower narrative. This is why it took me a few days to get into it. Bear with me--I'm going to explain why I love it in a moment. This slow burn is the lull, the period after a climax of a novel just left by the character we don't know yet. The quiet. Vietnam war. It takes off and I found myself immersed in this give and take. The story of Ray and the story of the narrator reflect each other in subtle and not so subtle ways. It explores the before of internment, the after. It explores decisions that were not maybe right but maybe would never change. It presses into the ill understood nature of PTSD after Vietnam. It covers the returns of Veterans who longed to serve the country and the wall thrown up between them and everyone else whether it was from racism or purely politics. Along with this is a marvelous use of rhetoric, bringing metaphor and symbolism in such a beautiful way that I honestly didn't feel the impact until a good fifteen minutes after I closed my copy. When I did feel the impact, I felt it all the way home. I couldn't listen to music or read a book. All I could do was absorb what I had read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    peg

    Five stars to this book for the excellent craftsmanship the author used in putting together several plot lines in a non-linear structure. The use of actual historical happenings from WWII to the Vietnam war gave it a wonderful realism. I look forward to reading more by this author.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Octavio Solis

    This stirring novel might have been read in a single sitting if I hadnt been so distracted this last month. Its short and the formal elevated language moves swiftly through this two-pronged story of a young Vietnam vet coping with his inner war who gets suddenly swept in the wake of older strifes he has no inkling of. Beautiful and moving, Kiefer fashions a heart-rending tale that moves gracefully between the purgatory of the returning soldier and the injustices that Japanese-Americans underwent This stirring novel might have been read in a single sitting if I hadn’t been so distracted this last month. It’s short and the formal elevated language moves swiftly through this two-pronged story of a young Vietnam vet coping with his inner war who gets suddenly swept in the wake of older strifes he has no inkling of. Beautiful and moving, Kiefer fashions a heart-rending tale that moves gracefully between the purgatory of the returning soldier and the injustices that Japanese-Americans underwent at the onset of World War II.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina Brentin

    This book tells the tale of a Vietnam war veteran walking through history with two women who lived through World War II - specifically on two different sides of the Japanese internment. John, the veteran, takes us through a whirlwind of history while struggling with his PTSD, going back and forth between the sixties as he lives through Evelyn Wilson and Kimiko Takahashi's meeting nearly twenty years after the war ended, their tension, valid, still existing over trouble between their families and This book tells the tale of a Vietnam war veteran walking through history with two women who lived through World War II - specifically on two different sides of the Japanese internment. John, the veteran, takes us through a whirlwind of history while struggling with his PTSD, going back and forth between the sixties as he lives through Evelyn Wilson and Kimiko Takahashi's meeting nearly twenty years after the war ended, their tension, valid, still existing over trouble between their families and the aftermath of the war. The story, with all of its bouncing back and forth through time, all the way up to the eighties, can be a challenge to follow and at times, confusing to a reader. The story, however, does provide interesting insight on life before, during, and after internment and reminds us to question ourselves on racism. While we blame others for the things they did no commit, we must remember this lesson in today's world as it happens again - turning against our neighbors leads to decades of reprocussions, ones that we must prevent now and not give in to hate.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    Powerful! Excellent! Thank you to all Japanese Americans who fought for your country (USA) in WW2. Im sorry you came home to no home at all. Powerful! Excellent! Thank you to all Japanese Americans who fought for your country (USA) in WW2. I’m sorry you came home to no home at all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    torin_kylara

    Oh, wow. This one was hard to rate. The subject matter definitely needs to be talked about and the plot was solid. My main problem was the author's style. He uses a weird POV switching style that when used in this way, really just distracts from the main story. There's really nothing you get from switching view that way, and quite a bit of the drama of the story is lost in the going back and forth. So I was on the fence about what to rate this and I was thinking about 3 stars, you know, kind of Oh, wow. This one was hard to rate. The subject matter definitely needs to be talked about and the plot was solid. My main problem was the author's style. He uses a weird POV switching style that when used in this way, really just distracts from the main story. There's really nothing you get from switching view that way, and quite a bit of the drama of the story is lost in the going back and forth. So I was on the fence about what to rate this and I was thinking about 3 stars, you know, kind of mediocre, but had its good parts. But then I thought about the fact that it barely touches on the Japanese internment camps at all. Like, why set your book with a Japanese character in that time period and barely deal directly with the subject matter at hand? Was he trying to be coy? Why shine a light on a subject only to immediately after hide it under a bush? It makes no sense. So in the end, I had to knock off a star for that. If you're going to take the time to set a period piece during an important time in our history, you have got to show that history, warts and all, and you aren't doing anybody any favors by white washing or avoiding events.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leon Balents

    Engrossing story spanning WWII and Vietnam and centered on the plight of Japanese Americans in the internment period in the US. The central story is slowly revealed in a way that makes it especially poignant.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Kingsley

    Phantoms by Christian Kiefer is told from a recent Vietnam Vet's point-of-view. John Frazeier comes home from Vietnam not knowing what to do with his life. A broken young man, like most who came back, and has decided to spend time with his Grandmother and a distant Aunt. The story floats through several decades, from before World War II to 1983. It also includes the lives of several different families, the Takahashis, who were displaced and sent to an interrnment camp during the second world Phantoms by Christian Kiefer is told from a recent Vietnam Vet's point-of-view. John Frazeier comes home from Vietnam not knowing what to do with his life. A broken young man, like most who came back, and has decided to spend time with his Grandmother and a distant Aunt. The story floats through several decades, from before World War II to 1983. It also includes the lives of several different families, the Takahashis, who were displaced and sent to an interrnment camp during the second world war, the Wilson's, who owned the land the Takahashis lives on and rented a place on, and Frazier himself, as a war hero who wonders what happened to another war hero, of a different time. Ray. Ray Tahahashis arrived home after serving in WWII to find that his family had been removed, and that he was no longer welcome. Then he disappeared. After losing friends, John finds that he can't let the story go, and finds himself obsessed later in life with the outcome. As a story that involved different time periods it was interesting how these stories intertwined. Seeing a man coming home from the Second World War to find his family and everything he loved gone, then to find out later what happened and how much life had screwed him over, was upsetting and fascinating. Most won't think of the repercussions of the life some leaves behind and the life they return to, especially given the time some soldiers spent away, and still spend on deployment. After most wars, the man or boy sent away is not the man or boy who comes back, and often the lives they are coming back to is not the same either. Ray finds this to be the truth when he returns to what he thought of as home, only to find that everything has changed and he is no longer welcome. As the story moves on the reader gets to see how unwelcome Ray is when the woman he loves and the people of the town react to him in an unexpected way. Decades later, when John returns from Vietnam with the same kind of feeling about where home is, he find himself embroiled in discussions between his distant Aunt, Evelyn Wilson, and Ray's mother Kimiko Takahashi, who only want to know where her son is. Evelyn Wilson however is full of secrets that she is unwilling to share, keeping a family in the dark, and creating more and more unnecessary heartache. John, is dealing with his own issues, memories and ghosts from his time in Vietnam. He spends some time with another soldier who was with him, Chigger, but in the end, no really gets their happy ending. This novel not only shows a portrayal of what it looks like for a soldier to come home, but also what secrets can do when left unspoken. One family doesn't find out the entire truth, and another searches for something that they let go of. In the end, there isn't justice for anyone, even John loses by not reaching out to someone he should have reached out to. There are parts of this novel that were hard to read, especially as someone who has been military for most of their life and who has sent men off to war. Parts of this novel were hard to read because of the blatant racism and disgust that some of the character portrayed, Evelyn Wilson was not a pleasant person, and neither was her daughter, Helen. In the end, the only issue I had with this book was the slipping of time forward and backward. There were moments that were confusing, and there were moments that were overdone, but overall, the book was pretty good.

  20. 4 out of 5

    M.D. Navalinski

    A tale of two soldiers from different wars, decades apart- Ray Takahashi, World War 2 vet, who returns home an unwelcome enemy instead of a hero and John Frazier, home from the jungles of Vietnam haunted by the pitfalls of front-line drug addiction. It is also the tale of two families, the Takahashis and the Wilsons, splintered apart by war and unrevealed secrets- that decades later consume Frazier's return and his Wilson heritage. Intent on pursuing secrets, phantoms, loose and tragic threads A tale of two soldiers from different wars, decades apart- Ray Takahashi, World War 2 vet, who returns home an unwelcome enemy instead of a hero and John Frazier, home from the jungles of Vietnam haunted by the pitfalls of front-line drug addiction. It is also the tale of two families, the Takahashis and the Wilsons, splintered apart by war and unrevealed secrets- that decades later consume Frazier's return and his Wilson heritage. Intent on pursuing secrets, phantoms, loose and tragic threads which perpetuate and do not rest these two families come together to seek near impossible to achieve closure. Best described by author Marie Matsuki Mockett as "A stunning, suspenseful, heartbreakingly gorgeous book." This is Kiefer's fourth book-an author whose use of prose and purpose only grow better with each offering. The best compliment I can give is that as soon as I finished the final page I anxiously look forward to his next novel, whenever it may arrive. Job well done. A book I can highly recommend whose subject material, racism, heartbreak and the search for truth is handled with utmost care. Job well done!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney McCormick

    Please enjoy additional book reviews & adventures on my blog: The Bull Crabs A glimpse into the life of Japanese Americans during WWII. This was a great story ... the plot was interesting and as a reader I wanted to know how it was going to end and where Ray would end up. The author has a great story here... I just wasn't a fan of the way it was executed. The narrator was writing a book, presumably the one we are reading, bouncing around time from current as he was writing the book to the Please enjoy additional book reviews & adventures on my blog: The Bull Crabs A glimpse into the life of Japanese Americans during WWII. This was a great story ... the plot was interesting and as a reader I wanted to know how it was going to end and where Ray would end up. The author has a great story here... I just wasn't a fan of the way it was executed. The narrator was writing a book, presumably the one we are reading, bouncing around time from current as he was writing the book to the past within the story he was telling as an observer. The fact that he wanted to talk about his own experiences in the book but kept going back to Ray's story was completely irrelevant to the story and I found very distracting. The author should have just focused on the two mothers and how the narrator was discovering the stories - that was the good stuff... that's where the story was. If you ignore all the unnecessary 'noise' the author adds to the story, this is a really good book with a great plot.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Christian Kiefer has released one of the most poignant tales of the divide between two American families. Takahashi and Wilson's families shared a tale in a time filled with American ethnocentrism which rings of truth even today! John Fraiser parallels his time in Vietnam with Ray Takahashi time in WWII with similar experiences upon their return home, the abandonment and loneliness suffered by each. John's love for his grandma and sharing remembrance with his war brother, "Chiggers" and their Christian Kiefer has released one of the most poignant tales of the divide between two American families. Takahashi and Wilson's families shared a tale in a time filled with American ethnocentrism which rings of truth even today! John Fraiser parallels his time in Vietnam with Ray Takahashi time in WWII with similar experiences upon their return home, the abandonment and loneliness suffered by each. John's love for his grandma and sharing remembrance with his war brother, "Chiggers" and their torment too heavy to view in hindsight. Much of this story we are now faced with each and every day. The division and alienation of races in this country from the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African, with segregation camps like the WRA in Tule Lake, followed by the cry for a ludicrous wall on the Mexican border to the travel bans placed on Muslims immigrants! My god when will we learn? Find out what your fantoms are as revealed in this great tale.

  23. 4 out of 5

    RICHARD

    In this short novel(230 pages) Kiefer masterfully weaves a suspenseful, emotionally charged story of two families; one, Japanese-American and the other U.S born American. What starts as a bucolic farming community quickly unravels with the onset of WWII, revealing the racism that lies just beneath the skin. The story is told by a Viet Nam vet, dealing with his own demons, while unraveling layer after layer of dark truths. This is not a "war" story, although the after effects of wars certainly In this short novel(230 pages) Kiefer masterfully weaves a suspenseful, emotionally charged story of two families; one, Japanese-American and the other U.S born American. What starts as a bucolic farming community quickly unravels with the onset of WWII, revealing the racism that lies just beneath the skin. The story is told by a Viet Nam vet, dealing with his own demons, while unraveling layer after layer of dark truths. This is not a "war" story, although the after effects of wars certainly take their toll on the lives of those who suffered through them. Questions of right and wrong, love and hate, permeate the story. The mystery of what happened to a "Ray", a Japanese-American soldier is slowly, teasingly, uncovered, all the while revealing other mysteries that some had hoped would remain hidden forever. I have read Kiefer's novels, and this is the best of the lot. Its a page-turner that's hard to put down.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Hinton

    Christian Kiefer's Phantoms is a novel featuring the lives of Ray Takahashi, a World War II veteran returning home from war to find that his family is not in their hometown, and John Frazier, a Vietnam veteran returning from war to live with his grandmother both stories happen in Newcastle, CA. Newcastle is where the convergence and collapse of these two characters lives happen through a haunting of past lies and racism toward Japanese- Americans by the Wilsons, whom John is distantly related. Christian Kiefer's Phantoms is a novel featuring the lives of Ray Takahashi, a World War II veteran returning home from war to find that his family is not in their hometown, and John Frazier, a Vietnam veteran returning from war to live with his grandmother both stories happen in Newcastle, CA. Newcastle is where the convergence and collapse of these two characters lives happen through a haunting of past lies and racism toward Japanese- Americans by the Wilsons, whom John is distantly related. Both characters stories are told at the same time like an hourglass filled with sand tilted on its side, sand coalescing in the epicenter of discovering the truth of what happened to Ray Takahashi after he returned home to Newcastle.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily Gersema

    Secrets Kiefer explores through his narrator John Fraezier not only the haunting trauma of war but the secrets that can unravel and divide families and communities without confession and contrition. Johns aunts poor attempt to make amends for what was done in the past with regard to the whereabouts of the Takahashis oldest son after World War II raises questions about whether and which sins and decisions are forgivable. John is haunted by his own misdeeds in Vietnam, and finds himself unable to Secrets Kiefer explores through his narrator John Fraezier not only the haunting trauma of war but the secrets that can unravel and divide families and communities without confession and contrition. John’s aunt’s poor attempt to make amends for what was done in the past with regard to the whereabouts of the Takahashis’ oldest son after World War II raises questions about whether and which sins and decisions are forgivable. John is haunted by his own misdeeds in Vietnam, and finds himself unable to maintain his aunt’s secret. As John learns the truth of Ray Takahashi’s whereabouts after the war, he finds that his aunt was not alone in her efforts to obscure the truth.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book could have been a cliche, as it touches on two topics that have been written about lately - the internment of Japanese-Americans and a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. But it isn't. The Vietnam vet, traumatized by his service, returns in 1969 to spend time with his grandmother, who lives in rural California. He is asked by a relative to drive her to the home of another woman, who used to live in the town. It turns out there are secrets, there are mysteries, which unfold This book could have been a cliche, as it touches on two topics that have been written about lately - the internment of Japanese-Americans and a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. But it isn't. The Vietnam vet, traumatized by his service, returns in 1969 to spend time with his grandmother, who lives in rural California. He is asked by a relative to drive her to the home of another woman, who used to live in the town. It turns out there are secrets, there are mysteries, which unfold gradually and incompletely of a summer, and raise questions for vet, now a writer, for years to come. The story telling is good, the people feel real, and there are no easy answers. I liked this a lot.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Christian Kiefer's book is engaging and multifaceted. It's a story within a story within a story. The characters are beautifully flawed. The setting is made recognizable and familiar, everytown. One theme is, I think, about the damage repeatedly done to generation after generation of young people who are sent off to war and return with "invisible wounds" of trauma. A second theme is the "otherness" we project onto one another, inflicting yet another form of combat trauma during "peace at home." Christian Kiefer's book is engaging and multifaceted. It's a story within a story within a story. The characters are beautifully flawed. The setting is made recognizable and familiar, everytown. One theme is, I think, about the damage repeatedly done to generation after generation of young people who are sent off to war and return with "invisible wounds" of trauma. A second theme is the "otherness" we project onto one another, inflicting yet another form of combat trauma during "peace at home." The author also dangles before us the possibility for redemption and change for those willing to grow and change via openness to others. A lovely book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bobbie N

    When Ray Takahashi returns from the battlefields of World War II, he finds the house he grew up in occupied by a white family he does not know. Two decades later, John Frazier is struggling with the phantoms of Vietnam when he becomes an unwitting witness to a confrontation long in the making between two elderly matriarchs, his aunt Evelyn and her former neighbor Kimiko Takahashi. The stories of these two families are woven together, seeking closure and healing of the phantoms of war, survival, When Ray Takahashi returns from the battlefields of World War II, he finds the house he grew up in occupied by a white family he does not know. Two decades later, John Frazier is struggling with the phantoms of Vietnam when he becomes an unwitting witness to a confrontation long in the making between two elderly matriarchs, his aunt Evelyn and her former neighbor Kimiko Takahashi. The stories of these two families are woven together, seeking closure and healing of the phantoms of war, survival, and American imperialism. Deeply moving.

  29. 4 out of 5

    proseaddict

    Phantoms is the first CK book I've had the pleasure of reading. I picked up a copy at AWP last Saturday and wasn't sure what to expect but I was blown away! I devoured this book in one long, delightful, fully absorbed sitting. I can't say enough about this book. It is beautiful, yet haunting and totally relevant today. I'll be talking this one up for awhile. I can't wait to read more by this author.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maureen O'Leary

    This beautiful novel spans decades in the lives of two families and how they are affected by war, post trauma, and racism. Yet despite the unsentimental and often tragic turns the story takes, a thread of hope and redemption is woven therein. Every page is studded with absolutely beautiful and astonishing language. This author is a master of this art form and this novel is not to be missed. There is redemption in storytelling, generous acts, and love in PHANTOMS, and I highly recommend.

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