Author: Pik-Shuen Fung
Pub. Date: Jul. 2021 (read Mar. 2022)
I’ve been putting off my review for Ghost Forest because I don’t have a lot to say about it, but I do still want to write a short review because I think this is a very understated book and I really loved it!
I stumbled upon it at my local indie bookstore and admit to be primarily drawn to it for the cover art, but it’s also Canadian lit, so I quickly purchased it and let it sit on my shelf for a few months before finally reading it. I guess I forgot immediately after buying that it was also written in prose, or likely I would have read it sooner since it’s a quick read.
Ghost Forest features an unnamed narrator, a young girl whose family immigrates to Canada in the 1990’s. Though most of her family settles in Vancouver, her father continues to work in Hong Kong as an “astronaut father”. The novel explores her relationship with her father over the years, as a young girl living in Canada, to a young adult also living in Hong Kong when her father becomes very sick. Over time her relationship with her father has become strained as she never really felt like he was around and she re-examines her family history as her father becomes sicker.
The writing is really beautiful and I loved how the author explored family dynamics and all the ways in which immigration and new cultures can fracture a family. While the book centers around the protagonist and her father, it also features an oral history of her other family members, including her sister, mother, and grandmother. It’s a family history, but it’s also a book about love, grief, and memory. How things became what they are and the thoughts of what might have been. Many returned to Hong Kong years later, but this family opted to stay in Canada, even though they partially relocate back to Hong Kong when the father is sick. It explores identity and belonging and is a classic immigration story that I’d recommend to any Canadian. A quick read filled with gorgeous prose!