A Novel

Christian Kiefer (Author)

Logo markA Liveright book


Torn apart by war and bigotry, two families confront long-buried secrets in this haunting American novel of World War II and Vietnam.

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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • Forthcoming April 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-87140-481-7
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 288 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Kiefer's sweeping novel (after One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place to Hide) examines the ways war shapes the lives of ordinary people.... Kiefer's story sheds light on the prejudice violence ignites and on the Japanese American experience during a fraught period of American history, and makes for engaging and memorable outing.” — Publishers Weekly

“Sweet life spills from every perfect word. It will break your heart, and in the breaking, fill you with bittersweet but luminous joy.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Set in the golden foothills of the Sierra Nevada and spanning the middle decades of the twentieth century, Phantoms tells the intertwined stories of two families, two wars, and two soldiers trying to make their way home. Exploring the brutal legacies of racism and war with unflinching honesty and incandescent prose, this novel asks: Who gets to tell their stories, and who doesn’t? What if you’re entrusted with—or thrust into—someone else’s story? Who gets to find their way home?” — Naomi J. Williams, author of Landfalls

“Christian Kiefer is a masterful writer, and this magisterial novel is aching with beauty and power. This is a great book.” — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

“Christian Kiefer's Phantoms is a kaleidoscopic marvel. With each new chapter, Kiefer deftly turns the dial, shifting patterns and textures and hues, urging us to question assumptions and to reconsider old truths. In confronting the complex legacies of World War II and Vietnam, Kiefer has delivered a haunting story of the past that will make us see the present anew.” — Kirstin Chen, author of Soy Sauce for Beginners and Bury What We Cannot Take

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