Author: Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: 2013
Page Count: 354
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 4/5 Stars
A fascinating story about the rare tradition of ghost marriages that will enchant readers with its use of Chinese folklore and the supernatural.
*Novel Story Idea *Use of Chinese folklore/ supernatural
“The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.” Li Lan’s father shocks her one day when he tells her that the prestigious Lim family has asked her to marry their recently deceased son as a ghost bride. Her once genteel family is nearing bankruptcy and though she will never be able to have children or have a breathing husband by her side, accepting the proposal would mean a comfortable life for her and her family for the rest of their days. As she struggles with her decision, the aggressive ghost of her potential husband begins to haunt her dreams, Li Lan discovers his death might not have been of natural causes, and his cousin, the next heir to the Lim fortune, brings forth feelings Li Lan has never felt for another man. Li Lan must decide whether to give in to the Lim family’s wishes as well as their deceased son’s, or fight for the freedom to live her life on her own terms.
Yes! What a perfect combination of all my favorite qualities in a story bound in one gorgeously covered book! It deals in the supernatural, has plenty of romance and drama, and even feels like a modern-day fairy tale with its ties to Chinese folklore. I’d never heard of the tradition of ghost marriages so right off the bat I was hooked on picking up this book. Such a strange, fascinating tradition of marrying a woman to a restless spirit was unlike anything I’d read or heard of before. Props to the author for such an original and cool story idea. While the ghost bride topic was new to me, a lot of the Chinese mythology the author infuses was also something I didn’t know much about. And being a mythology freak, I ate it up and realized after finishing the book I needed to expand my library to include more stories that include mythologies from different cultures. My hair colorist, whose family still believes in many ancient Chinese stories about the supernatural even today, had mentioned a few of the superstitions Li Lan’s family believes in the book, so it was fascinating for me to delve deeper into that supernatural world I’d only heard about in passing.
The only thing I can say that I didn’t enjoy was the ending. It felt a bit hurried and I didn’t get a solid feeling of closure. I had no idea what direction Li Lan’s life was going to take in the end and while I did approve of it, I felt like I wanted to read a bit more into how her life was after her choice. I won’t go into it any more than that for fear of spoiling the ending. For such a big decision, I felt jipped from really experiencing the consequences of her choice.
Don’t even hesitate to pick up this book if you love romance, the supernatural, or folklore of any culture. Though the ending was a bit short it does not take away from the amazing journey Li Lan takes readers on through a maze of dark family secrets and the shadowy world of the Chinese afterlife. I can’t believe that this rich, intriguing story is the author’s debut novel. I really hope we see more books from Choo in the future!