To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts

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Pub Date Aug 08 2017 | Archive Date Jan 08 2024

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For fans of Elizabeth Strout, Kent Haruf, Tobias Wolfe, and Ann Beattie...

In these ten elegantly written short stories, Caitlin Hamilton Summie takes readers from WWII Kansas City to a poor, drug-ridden neighborhood in New York, from western Massachusetts to woodsy Wisconsin, and from the quiet of rural Minnesota to its pulsing Twin Cities, each time navigating the geographical boundaries that shape our lives as well as the geography of tender hearts, loss, and family bonds. Deeply moving and memorable, To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts examines the importance of family, the defining nature of place, the need for home, and the hope of reconciliation.


For fans of Elizabeth Strout, Kent Haruf, Tobias Wolfe, and Ann Beattie...

In these ten elegantly written short stories, Caitlin Hamilton Summie takes readers from WWII Kansas City to a poor...

A Note From the Publisher

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, Hypertext Magazine, South85 Journal, and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published by Fomite Press in August 2017. Her novel, GEOGRAPHIES OF THE HEART, based on some of the stories in her collection, was published by Fomite Press in January 2022. 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. Find her online at

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...

Advance Praise

More than 100 Goodreads reviews and a 4.46 average

WINNER, Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award

SILVER, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards for Short Stories

A Pulpwood Queen Bonus Book

Selected for 35 Over 35's Annual List

Made Year End Best Fiction Lists on Hungry for Good Books, Savvy Verse & Wit, Read Her Like An Open Book

Featured in The Millions Most-Anticipated The Great Second-Half  2017 Book Preview

“…Summie is our modern Chekhov.”—Savvy Verse & Wit

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.”— (also appeared in The Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Her compelling writing reminds us of the power of a well-delivered narrative….Summie’s stories emphasize [our] shared humanity, and there is something accessible, recognizable and timely for everyone.”—The Vail Daily

“The universal issues and dilemmas at the heart of Summie’s stories and her focus on families give To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts wide appeal. You’ll want to talk about these characters as if you knew them, and you’ll want to revisit these stories more than once.”—BethFish Reads

“This debut collection works together to form a Cubist portrait of grief….Summie’s ghosts linger.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“…a collection of eloquent, grace-filled stories that offers readers a mirror into their own souls. If you enjoy the spare, affecting writing of Kent Haruf, read this. Buy two copies, one for yourself and one to give someone you love.”—Hungry for Good Books

“…will resonate with readers who themselves may have experienced these life-changing family moments that seem small but are really huge.”—The St. Paul Pioneer Press

"…To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts is nothing short of magnificent. After reading "Tags," the vivid and powerful opening story, I thought Well, this is a smart writer—she's obviously led off with her best. Then I found that if anything I liked the next story even better, and by then I knew I was reading something special. These stories are realist fiction at its finest. The author's sense of place is extraordinary, and it informs every word she writes. Her characters are as real as anybody you know in the town where you live, and their lives are depicted with quiet dignity. The stories are both intense and economical. I've gotten very hard to please, but I loved this book."--Steve Yarbrough

"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

"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

“There are lots of story collections with a very strong connection to place. There are also lots of collections with great range in their locales….“To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts” is a wonderful achievement because it meets both of those goals. I found myself attached to each story and its places—carefully enhanced by characters whose lives and thoughts and situations are quite easy to feel connected to.”—Hans Weyandt, Milkweed Bookstore 

More than 100 Goodreads reviews and a 4.46 average

WINNER, Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award

SILVER, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards for Short Stories

A Pulpwood Queen Bonus Book


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ISBN 9781944388065
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Featured Reviews

Quiet writing, where the subtlety is so full of description, of feelings - this is what I found in this beautifully written collection of stories. Some readers may think that nothing happens because these are quiet stories, but for me everything happens. I don't read a lot of short stories, but every once in a while I venture out from reading novels when a collection gets my attention. With To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts, I was not disappointed as I sometimes am because short stories sometimes leave me wanting more . In this case I wanted more when I finished - more of these stories.

The stories felt connected but not necessarily by the presence of the same characters, although one of the characters appears in three of them. The link between them for me was manifested by a palatable sadness, memories of the past, grief over loss of loved ones, over loss of a bond that once existed between siblings, between parents and children. You won't find any apparitions here, but instead the things from within that haunt these characters. " I carefully sorted through a box of pictures.......Mom came home from work and there I was, spreading her memories out across her bedroom floor, searching for myself." (From "Points of Exchange") These are stories of family, of home, of leaving home for other places, of going back home for some or not when it seems impossible. These are stories of relationships - sibling relationships full of love at one time, then with distance not just of place but of "Geographies of the Heart" as is reflected in the story of that title; rifts between fathers and sons and things that bind them.

It's hard for me to even choose a favorite; I loved them all. Recommended for readers of short stories or to anyone who wants to be as captivated by this lovely writing and stories that will reach "the geographies" of their hearts as it did mine.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Fomite.

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What a beautiful collection of short stories Caitlin Hamilton Summie has packaged in her book All the Ghosts We Lay To Rest. Past experience of short stories has been disapponting as they generally lack the depth of character found in full length novels, and I find myself getting frustrated by the fact that just as I begin to slip into the story it ends.   Not so this time around.    There was no faulting these stories for depth, and each one felt complete.       So much so that on more than one occassion I had to wipe away an escaped tear.    The writing was terrific and I'd be hard pressed to select a favorite from amongst the ten stories.       They each appealed to me in some way or another, although I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a flicker of recognition and excitement each time Sarah and her family made a reappearance.    Though the stories were all different they spoke strongly of family, of losses and of grief and yet they did not feel downcast.   Somehow they managed to introduce an element of reconciliation and hope. 

My only disappointments with these short stories were these:    
    1) I wanted more of these stories, and
    2) I wanted more of that terrific writing, and I couldn't find any
         other work attributed to this author.

If only other collections of short stories moved me the way this one did I would become an avid short story fan.   My sincere thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Summie for her efforts in writing & publishing this book and NetGalley for the free digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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These ten short stories are all, each one, so softly exquisite, perfect in each brief encapsulated moment of time, of personal feelings exposed, shared moments, delightfully poignant. Each story painted in such detail, with such a clear sense of emotions, the sadness, or memories, heartbreak, loss… those moments in life that one tends to remember in detail even years later. Snippets of time encapsulated in stories where each word feels carefully chosen.

Short stories are something I’m not often drawn to, although this past year or two, I’ve found several that I’ve enjoyed. This collection feels less like a collection of separate stories than those bound together as one by the quiet hopelessness, sadness, loss, despair that pervades these everyday, common lives with everyday, common problems: war, the loss of loved ones, watching someone you love slowly fade from this life, slipping away until not even their breath remains. Family conflicts, family tension, life’s disappointments. No one gets through life without experiencing some amount of pain and heartache.

I loved each of these stories, each spoke to a different part of me, with so many passages that I loved. I loved how Caitlin Hamilton Summie captured the essence of these places, whether they were on a farm or in near isolation, or the middle of a city, these eras, as well, so many little touches that spoke volumes about who these people were, and how and when and where they lived. There is a quiet simplicity to the telling of these stories, a touch of Marilynne Robinson with a trace of Kent Haruf, a sprinkling of Andrew Krivak, perhaps. Each word seems to be deliberated over and deliberately chosen.

”Who will lay claim to the past? That was what we were arguing about, who would control the way we were remembered. We had not thought of what we were doing. We had not practiced the kinds of verbal reconciliation that we’d need. That came later, slowly, like the snow that winter.”

“We’re from the same place, but we have different geographies of the heart.”

For me, that is the underlying message of these beautifully written short stories. Recognizing our differences, but honoring those thoughts, those emotions, our humanity, in others as well.

Pub Date: 08 Aug 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Fomite

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Ten perfect short stories that gently bring to the surface the ghosts in the minds of the wonderful characters that people these stories, and in the telling call up our own ghosts and memories. As is so important for a great short story, every word, every sentence, every meaning, is a jewel. I was enchanted and moved by every one of Caitlin Hamilton-Summie’s stories, and sad when I closed the book at its end. Yet the joy of a collection like this is that it can be picked up again and again, and every new reading of a story will bring new insights, tweak new chords in our own memories and in our lives as we are living them now.

Each is the perfect length to read before you go to sleep, and your sleep will be deeper and sweeter (and perhaps your dreams will be more interesting). Or read one in the space between the events of your day for renewed energy and an enhanced appreciation of the small things in life, the small and oh-so-important small things, like love and loss and family and home, and the precious bonds to your past.

Thank you to Netgalley and Fomite for the opportunity to review an advanced copy of this treasure trove.

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“Every room held a slim memory, like a sleeve.”

Every story holds a memory. These are stories I will read again. Stories with connections to each other, whether through characters, circumstance or weather. These are thought-provoking, nail-on-the-head pieces that show what it is to be a grandfather, from both his point of view and his adult granddaughter’s. Life and death and families. Not all the same family, except that all of us really are.

And COLD! Winter in northern America is a time when people live in close quarters. You can’t just impulsively slam the door and go for a walk to escape an argument. This excerpt is from a story where a mother is trying to find her child at the bus stop after school, and then she reminisces about her own wintry adventure with her little brother at about the same age.

“the snow fell long after the bus brought them back home. In mid-afternoon the bus appeared out of the white haze in flashes of yellow, the rumble of its engine muted by the steady, heavy snow. I walked toward the blurs of color which I knew were children, searching. I took children by the shoulders, by the elbows, and turned them round until I could see their faces.”

She finds her, but her car won’t start, and when she begins to lead her daughter and some other kids on a cross-country shortcut, her daughter wants to head a different direction. Mother nervously remembers when she was little:

“The blizzard which tore through town when I was ten was full of wind and whirling snow and made of a cold raw enough to kill a man. I dressed to go outside, and my little brother, Ray, followed. We didn’t think anything of sneaking out the back door for a minute or two.

They walked for ages before they were brought inside. The next morning, her father

“took us out into the backyard. He showed us little indentations in the snow, what was left of our footprints. We had been walking in circles. ‘You could have been out here ‘til you froze, just trying to find the back door . . . Winter’s no thing to play around with, Dad said. ‘You think winter is all snowmen and hot chocolate and ice skating and Christmas at the end. Well,’ he said. ‘Well’.”

There are some wonderful old people, stubborn people (adult brother in wheelchair who insists on living alone in a remote wilderness area), many connected to one family.

The character I remember best is probably Sarah, who crops up in different stories in different guises. She’s a child, she’s a mother, she’s researching family history and annoying her grandmother when seeking answers about grandmother’s sister, the black sheep of the family.

Then again, some of the other characters pop back into mind. I loved the stories and the story-telling. The humour, this from a man living alone (in the cold) with

“a yellow lab named Jack, who has a bit of a farting problem. I’m constantly opening the front door and ushering Jack outside, which is, in the end (no pun intended), pointless. I’m still left with the stink, and I’d rather have his company.”

Memories, and how they work. This excerpt reminds me of the Indigenous Memory Code used in oral traditions, particularly the Australian Aboriginal songlines, or at least my understanding of them. Everything has some significance in history, as part of the story. Here’s a modern, American version where Sarah is visiting the house she grew up in with her parents and grandparents “the generations piled in layers, like the number of floors: three. . .

I had watched the ritual picking of the cucumber yield and their slow progression into sweet pickles, Grandma patiently stirring, Grandpa quick to swear if he sliced a finger, which he’d wag at me. I understood references to the point system and knew old Navy jokes that no small child should know. I learned when to fold in a poker game. Every room held a slim memory, like a sleeve.”

Wonderful writing, wonderful stories. Anyone who is a fan of Elizabeth Strout’s stories will enjoy these, I think. Thanks to NetGalley and Fomite for the review copy from which I’ve quote (so words may have changed).

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4.5 stars. TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is a collection of ten beautifully written short stories. Some stories take place in states I haver never visited, but I could feel the cold wind and snow when Carol met Jenny and the other little ones at the school bus stop during a blizzard, I could see the woods, lake and narrow dirt road with potholes and muddy patches as George wheeled himself along to meet his brother and I could hear the noises, see the drug addicts and smell "the world in one neighbourhood" where Jenny lived in New York City.
I enjoyed reading these stories about belonging, family, community, loss, love, grief and hope.
This quote from GEOGRAPHIES OF THE HEART will stay with me.
'His doctor had told us that Grandpa's systems would slow and then stop one by one, as if someone were systematically going through a house and shutting off all the lights. I still haven't gotten over that image.'
Caitlin Hamilton Summie with her elegant descriptive language and well developed characters has me longing to read more of her work.
Special thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Summie for writing the exceptional book, TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS. Thanks also to NetGalley and Fomite Press for providing me with a digital ARC enabling me to read it and write my thoughts.

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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This collection of short stories was wonderful. Highly recommend!

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Some things cannot last; some things last too long.

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!

Available Now!

Published August 2017 Fomite

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This book contains ten very well written short stories. The subject matter is all about family, discovering family, leaving family, returning to family. Brothers, Sisters, Children, Grandparents, Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters trying to hold family together, with varying degrees of success. Daughters pulling away while mothers hold on. Grievances that fester to the point of poisoning relationships. Loving but not really liking your sibling. Husbands who learn about grief that never leaves but learn how to carry it.

In “Tags” our narrator, Dolores, knew her father only by her last name. When all the fathers left for the war the women moved into Grammy’s house in Kansas City. Children remembering Fathers lost in the war, remembering the smell of soap while being hugged, remembering the smell of cigarettes, trying to remember fathers who became “vague and shadowy”, fathers who never returned home.

In “Growing Up Cold” One runs, two stay, one returns, one is lost, how do you say goodbye?

In “Points of Exchange” everything was determined by where you live. If it was by a stop sign in New York City you lived at the point of exchange. Twenty-three-year-old Jenny Nelson needs to leave Minnesota, needs to be something else, somewhere else. It takes a sandal-clad hop-scotch skipping kid to teach her that she will never belong where she has landed, she will never be able to join that community of women. Her community is waiting for her, she just needs to figure it out.

Each story is so poignant in its simplicity and heartbreaking in the telling of family dust-ups, coming together, tearing apart, realizations of what might have come before and what will never be a part of the future.

Thank you NetGalley and Fomite for a copy.

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"I bet in heaven I'll see some tiny angel and know it's face."

TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS is a unique and tastefully written collection of ten heart heavy stories.

Caitlin Hamilton Summie explores feelings of grief after loss, last goodbyes and memories of life, love and forgiveness all linked to the importance of family.

So many much so few, well chosen words. Well done.

Thank you to Fomite via NetGalley for the reading opportunity in exchange for review.

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These are ten wonderfully written short stories that manage to evoke the deep feelings of the characters. From the children who lost their fathers in WWII to a young woman from the midwest out of her element in a raunchy part of New York City, the characters and their surroundings come to life with the words of this author. I was sorry to see the collection end and look forward to future work by this author.

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In this debut book, Caitlin Hamilton Summie uses the medium of the short story to explore the important junction points of lives. There is the man who waits in the hospital for his son to be born. A young girl from a middle-class background finds herself living in Alphabet City in New York, adrift from all she knows about life and relationships. A woman remembers a snowstorm and how shepherding schoolchildren to safety allowed her to find her adult strength and know she was up to the task of parenting. A grandfather dies and sisters discover the fault line in their sisterhood and the resentment when a family member grows in a way that is unanticipated. A woman decides to write down her family's history and finds the story of the sister who was written out of the family memories. One story picks up on a story related earlier, of sisters who have drifted apart but who are redefining what they mean to each other.

The character definitions are clear; the reader can picture the individuals who are portrayed and recognize their characteristics in other people they have known. The descriptions are luminous, taking the reader to the place in which the story is set. One example, 'My father grabbed me by the hand, and we jogged across the yard. The night air was cold. Subzero temperatures slapped me awake. Our boots crunched the snow as we ran. I will remember this always, this jog to the barn in the middle of the night with only the light of the stars.'

Caitlin earned her MFA With Distinction from Colorado State University. Since then her stories have been published in various places but the reader will be glad to find them collected into one book. Her deft writing explores what family means, how we love and how we let others down but as we keep trying to connect, find each other again and again. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in how we all relate to each other.

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I rarely read short stories but a friend recommended this collection. I loved every one of the stories. What a brilliant and haunting collection. Caitlin’s sense of place and character shine through in her writing. I highlighted numerous bits in which her observations and flow of words were simple yet stunning.

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Caitlin Hamilton Summie
Summie sketched a portrait of emotion, those ties that bind. I highly recommend these elegantly written short stories. They’re thought-provoking and quite touching.

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This collection of stories is stirring and grips at something viscerally in the reader. The author’s examination of family and the past really struck me and resonated with me. A reader can read these as one story or the stories do well as stand alone. This collection made me think deeply and examine each story individually and as a whole. The writing is poignant and remains with the reader long after the book is set down.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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