The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo ebook, 334 pages Published August 6th 2013 by William Morrow Goodreads| Amazon| B & N | TBD
A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists. One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride. . . . Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound. Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
It certainly took some time for me to finish reading this exquisite gem by my fellow Malaysian; Yangsze Choo as I wanted to truly immersed myself in the wonderful lush setting of ancient Malacca which to this day is a colourful melting pot of so many cultures. And those familiar setting certainly captivated me enough through most of the slow beginning chapters of this book as the writer certainly took her time to introduce the myriad of characters with all their backgrounds and quirks while at the some tantalize me so much with such detailed descriptions of local foods where the writer's passion as a foodie is evident in the way she explain each dish so lovingly. However, when Li Lan stumbled into the other world, I kept thinking that I really missed the peaceful setting of the quaint town of Malacca. The ghost world are pretty gruesome complete with corrupt bull headed demons and afterlife officers willing to bend their rules for some gold. And as our dear Li Lan eventually discovered that even in afterlife the Lim family is as powerful as they are in the world of the living. The saving grace is of course the introduction of the character; Er Lang. He was indeed the bright spot in an otherwise a dull and creepy ghost world for Li Lan. And eventhough his appearance is quite late in the game, he just captivate the hell out of me. (Gosh, pun unintended). At first, Tian Bai just seemed like the perfect candidate for Li Lan but the mysterious and certainly not human Er Lang is so funny and unpredictable that I just can't help but root for the two of them eventhough knowing that such thing is impossible. For those unfamiliar with Asian settings or the Chinese belief, this book will certainly took awhile to get into. But the twists and turns of this book will certainly intrigue readers to enjoy this to the end.