This “powerful” (BuzzFeed) award-winning debut about love, grief, and family welcomes you into its pages and invites you to linger, staying with you long after you’ve closed its covers.
“Quietly moving . . . connected by a kind of dream logic . . . deeply felt . . . There is joy and tenderness in . . . Fung’s elegant storytelling.”—The New York Times Book Review
How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings?
This is the question the unnamed protagonist of GhostForest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.
Buoyant and heartbreaking, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.
“Ghost Forest is the tender/funny book we can all appreciate after a hellish year.”—Literary Hub
“This is the book I’m excited about. . . . It’s about grief but it’s . . . light as a feather, and it has to do with how it’s arranged on the page. It’s almost like reading poetry but it’s a novel. . . . The words are beautiful, the writing is gorgeous, but just the way the book is laid out feels extremely refreshing.”—Ann Patchett
“Ghost Forest is a debut certain to turn your heart. With a dexterity and style all her own, Pik-Shuen Fung renders the many voices that make up a family, as well as the mythologies we create for those we know, and those we wish we knew better. I am madly in love with this book, a kaleidoscopic wonder.”—T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“Here, silences speak. Brilliant and pitiless at first, Ghost Forest mutates in the reader’s hand, until it shimmers with grace and unexpected humor. A mercurial meditation on love and family.”—Padma Viswanathan, bestselling author of The Ever After of Ashwin Rao
“Made by an artist who angles her mirror to make room for the faces of others, Pik-Shuen Fung’s Ghost Forest resembles a xieyi painting, a place where white space and absence are as important as color and life. Inventive, funny, and devastating.”—Jennifer Tseng, award-winning author of Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
“Like a Chinese ink painting, every line in Pik-Shuen Fung’s Ghost Forest is full of movement and spirit, revealing the resilient threads of matrilineal history and the inheritance of stories and silences. With humor, compassion, and clear-eyed prose, Fung reminds us that grief, memory, and history are never linear but always alive.”—K-Ming Chang, author of Bestiary
“This is a book to break your heart and then fill it to bursting again. What an exquisite, glorious debut.”—Catherine Chung, author of The Tenth Muse
“Fung’s commitment to this multifaceted take on grief shines through in the moments of lightheartedness and joy that rub shoulders with the novel’s heavier themes.”—Ayoung Kim interviews Pik-Shuen Fung for Cold Tea Collective
“[A] moving debut . . . Bracing fragments and poignant vignettes come together to make a stunning and evocative whole.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Seemingly spare yet undeniably dense with so much unsaid, Fung’s polyphonic first novel is a magnificent literary triumph.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Pik-Shuen Fung was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She has received fellowships and residencies from Kundiman, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Millay Arts, and Storyknife. Ghost Forest, her first book, won the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Literary Fiction.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Twenty-one days after my dad died, a bird perched on the railing of my balcony. It was brown. It stayed there for a long time.
Hi Dad, I said. Thanks for checking up on me.
I lay down on the couch and read some emails on my phone. When I looked up again, the bird was gone.
In my family, the best thing a child could be was gwaai. It meant you were good. It meant you did as you were told.
When I was four, or maybe six, I found out I was supposed to have a baby brother. But my mom said the baby flew to the sky, and that was why my dad was sad those days.
But why is he sad? I asked.
Because he’s a traditional Chinese father and he wants to have a son. Try to cheer him up.
Okay, I said.
I decided I would be so gwaai, I would be more perfect than a son.
I was three and a half when we immigrated to Canada. Like many other families, we left Hong Kong before the 1997 Handover. They say almost a sixth of the city left during this time.
My dad had seen news stories of Hong Kongers who couldn’t find jobs in their new countries, stories of managers who became dishwashers because they couldn’t speak the new language. Like many other fathers, my dad decided he didn’t want to leave his job in manufacturing behind.
To help my mom, my grandma and grandpa agreed to move with us to Canada. That spring, my dad took two weeks off from work, and the five of us headed to Kai Tak airport. All my aunts and uncles came to the departure gates to see us off.
In Canada there were more Hong Kong immigrants than in any other country, and in Vancouver, I had many classmates whose fathers stayed in Hong Kong for work too. I didn’t think of my family as different. I thought, this is what Hong Kong fathers do.
Astronaut family. It’s a term invented by the Hong Kong mass media. A family with an astronaut father—flying here, flying there.
As we walked out of the arrivals at the Vancouver airport, our family friends waved their arms.
Isn’t the air so fresh in Canada? they said.
For two weeks, we stayed at their house in the Richmond neighborhood, and they drove us everywhere. We ate dim sum in Aberdeen Centre, a new mall known as Little Hong Kong, and posed for pictures in Stanley Park, feeding breadcrumbs to the geese. But mostly, we were jet-lagged, riding in the back of their beige minivan, asleep with open mouths.
Two weeks later, after we moved into our new house, they drove us back to the Vancouver airport, where my mom looked at me and said, Say bye-bye to your dad now, he’s flying back to Hong Kong.
Through the windows of our new house, I saw plump pointy trees and blurry swishing trees. Everywhere outside was green.
At night, my mom slept in her bedroom, my grandpa in his. I shared a room with my grandma since we were always together. Three generations under one roof.
Dik lik dak lak diklikdaklak diklikdaklak
In our new house in Vancouver, everywhere outside was rain.