Winner of the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, this powerful, sweeping novel set in Vienna during the 1930s and ’40s centres on a poignant love story and a friendship that ends in betrayal.
In the years between the two world wars, Josef Tobak builds a quiet life around his friendships, his beloved wife, Anna, and his devotion to the old Jewish cemeteries of Vienna. Then comes the Anschluss in 1938, and Josef’s world is uprooted. His health disintegrates. His wife and child are forced to flee to China. His closest gentile friend joins the Nazi Party—and yet helps Josef escape to America.
When the war ends, Josef returns to Vienna with his family and tries to make sense of what remains, including his former Nazi friend who, he discovers, protected Josef’s young female cousin throughout the war.
Back among his cemeteries in Austria’s war-shattered capital, Josef finds himself beset by secrets, darkness and outward righteousness marred by private cruelty. As the truth is unearthed, Josef’s care for the dead takes on new meaning while he confronts his own role in healing both his devastated community and his deepest wounds.
The Ghost Keeper is a story about the terrible choices we make to survive and the powerful connections to communities and friends that define us. Here is a finely accomplished novel that introduces an exciting new voice to our literary landscape.