How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings?
This is the question the unnamed protagonist of Ghost Forest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.
Buoyant and heartbreaking, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Excellent, excellent. This is a special book. I listened via audiobook, narrated by the author herself, which I’d highly recommend. I feel that audio is the way to go to get the full experience. I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s a collection of personal essays that in just about 3 1/2 hours of time, anyone can consume it over a short or long pace and still be satisfied. I think it would make for lovely book club discussion.
It’s the type of book that you just sit and ponder over each detail as it’s read to you. Much like listening to a campfire story, a story from grandma, a story that makes time stop, meeting you right where you’re at. It had my full attention and the value went both ways, this exchange of pensive glimpses into someone’s else’s life experiences that really felt both real and dreamy. Some were short and sweet, some without much context, others with more of a backstory as well as heavy and meditative.
Essays I really cherish, they were all great, but here’s the ones that have stuck with me a long time:
Journey to the West
Dream of the Red Chamber
Romance of the 3 Kingdoms
Everything was written so delicate and concise. I liked that.
“Before age 40 we use our health to make money, but after age 40 money can’t buy back our health. -A Cantonese proverb
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