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July 12, 2021

Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung ~ a Review

by MK French

The unnamed protagonist has to figure out how to grieve after her father dies, when her family doesn't discuss emotions at all. He had been an "astronaut father," staying in Hong Kong to work while the rest of the family emigrated ahead of the 1997 handover to China.

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Ghost Forest
July 2021; One World;  978-0593230961
audio, ebook, print (272 pages); Asian American lit

This memoir is told as a series of vignettes, some from her mother or grandmother as well. We see glimpses of the lives they had in Hong Kong, in Canada, and stories from World War II in their voices. Some of the vignettes are very short, a fragment of memory, and some are longer, meandering tales with sparse details giving insight into how these women grew up and lived. The fragmented nature reflects the way immigrants can interact with the world around them. Their experiences aren't the same as those who never left Hong Kong or those that always lived in Canada. The differences in culture can be stark, and an empty ache left behind when the women don't fit in.

Asian cultures don't usually verbalize their love for one another, so it's difficult for the main narrator to bridge the gap of what she was raised with between two cultures and how her father was raised. The little hurts are there, not discussed, making grief difficult to bear. This book is that journey, and we feel less of the ache as it progresses, becoming more of wistfulness and sense of belonging. It's beautifully done, and a thoughtful read.

Buy Ghost Forest at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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