An unexpected treat, I loved this debut that pieces together relationships in a Chinese family of multiple generations. With evidence of soul searching and self questioning, author Pik-Shuen Fung’s unnamed narrator shares honest, revealing and humorous moments in Ghost Forest (One World).

When her family decided to make a life in Vancouver, her father had to return to Hong Kong to work. The mother went through a tough time raising her daughter alone in a different country, and when the narrator’s sister was born with health issues, it was almost too much to bear. Anger was exemplified in both the mother and father’s behaviors due to their circumstances and lack of control over their situation, yet in this retrospective, the narrator is able to see the selflessness her parents exhibited, the love they exemplified in their own ways and the aspirations they had for her.

The narrator ponders forgiveness while telling stories that reveal snippets of her family’s traditions: the lack of expressing love, the innate responsibility for caring for elderly family members, her grandmother’s superstitions like “worrying is bad for the spleen,” and wedding rituals like the Hair Ceremony. Looking back at the relationships she had with her sister, mother, father and grandmother, the narrator has wistful thoughts and a clearer understanding of the struggles her entire family experienced as they navigated their lives between Hong Kong and Canada.

Pik-Shuen Fung writes with objectivity, brevity and a focus on fact and observation. Ghost Forest doesn’t take long to read and it is enjoyable and thought provoking. I highly recommend it.

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Pik-Shuen Fung is a Canadian writer and artist living in New York City. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Kundiman, the Millay Colony and Storyknife. Ghost Forest is her debut novel.