Ghost Forest

One World. Jul. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780593230961. $26. F
DEBUT Canadian author Fung’s debut novel tells the story of a nameless Chinese family that emigrates from Hong Kong to Canada prior to the territory’s 1997 handover to China. The narrator describes growing up with her mother, grandmother, and younger sister and living out the well-worn role of academically proficient good Chinese daughter while confronting her strained relationship with her father, who remained in Hong Kong to support the family. (She sees him only twice a year.) Later, she struggles to bond with her father during a summer internship in Hong Kong and a brief study of Chinese ink painting, but the story truly intensifies when her father is diagnosed with severe liver disease. The consequences make this novel much more than a simple telling of one family’s story of immigration and assimilation, with the multigenerational perspectives provided by the narrator’s mother and grandmother enlivening the text and helping the narrator better understand her life.
VERDICT Reminiscent of Amy Tan’s early work but more sparely written, this fluid and deeply touching novel -- sprinkled throughout with Chinese onomatopoeia and proverbs -- will be appreciated by readers drawn to stories of families, relationships, and identity.
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