Cover Image: Ghost Forest

Ghost Forest

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Member Reviews

A compelling and heart breaking novel in verse. Reminded me very much of the Awkwafina film The Farewell (which I also liked a lot).
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While this is something that could easily be consumed in one sitting, I highly encourage prospective readers to take their time with this one and bathe in it, allow the words to really soak in. It is absolutely gorgeous and heart wrenching. One that I will be purchasing a physical copy of upon release to read again and again.

I was particularly hit by the formatting of dad 'writing' to communicate with his family at about the half way mark.

Stunning. Absolutely so.
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Family is tough. No matter how you grew up, how you turned out, family is a very hard concept to work through. There isn’t a rulebook, there isn’t a one size fits all solution to being a cohesive family unit, there isn’t a right answer. I grew up in a lower middle class family (like so many others); my mom remarried when I was young (like so many others); I had a sister, a brother, a step-sister, and a step-brother (like so many others). I had a hard time (like everyone).

Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung is about family. That’s an incredibly broad statement and can really apply to any book when you think about it, but, truly, that is what this book is about. The narrator (she’s unnamed which was a bit confusing when sitting down to write this, did I forget her name? No, it just doesn’t exist) is chronicling her life while telling stories of her grandmother’s and mother’s lives in Hong Kong.

In the mid-90’s, our heroine and her family move to Toronto from Hong Kong before the 1997 Handover takes place. The Handover (from my very general understanding) was when the British were handing sovereignty of Hong Kong over to China. Please do not ask me questions, I don’t know anything else. Many families were moving from Hong Kong as they were unsure of how their lives would change after the Handover was completed. Her father stays back in Hong Kong in order to earn money to send off to them in Toronto. This was a common phenomenon during that time, common enough that fathers earned the title “Astronaut Fathers”.

The bulk of the story is about the narrator’s father’s death. She spends a majority of the book at his bedside, asking for stories about his life. A lot of these stories meander into the narrator’s life and how it effects her. It’s an incredibly personal journey for her, it informs so many parts of her life from religion to love to parenthood.

This book, folks. This is definitely a contender for best of the year for me. The prose is beautiful. The story is incredibly personal, but doesn’t feel voyeuristic. I absolutely loved this book. Not to mention, I learned so much about Hong Kong and their customs, especially their religion. Highly, highly recommended. 5/5, 10/10.

I’m a parent now, so I’m creating my own family. Creating my own customs. Creating my own life. It’s hard. It’s always going to be hard. But, within that difficulty, there is joy and hope and fun and love. So goddamn much love. Family is hard. Family is so worth it.

Make sure to pick up Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung at your favorite indie on July 13th, 2021.

Thanks, NetGalley for the eARC!
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I enjoyed the format of Ghost Forest, tiny, poetic vignettes of the narrator's memories of her life, her relationships with her family, and living with her mother, sister, and grandparents in Vancouver while her father and the rest of her family live in Hong Kong. Pik-Shuen Fung is able to develop deep characters while minimizing descriptions and word counts. It's skillful writing, but for some of the anecdotes, I did want more. I wanted to know what happened before or after, how the stories linked together to form her family history, and how other characters experienced the events. I wanted rich descriptions of landscapes and food and emotions. But that is not a criticism. Rather, it's indicative of what a beautiful story Fung painted, that I wanted more.
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I absolutely devoured this book. It's short, but the pace is also really fast.

I don't know how much of this is autobiographical, but the narrator feels like a real person. It's hard to think of her as a fictional character. I also felt like the other characters in the book were just like people I know in my life. I guess they all seemed like real people.

Her struggle to be a good daughter, while also receiving less than stellar feedback, is so incredibly relatable.

One of the things I found particularly interesting was the descriptions of the funeral. It was just interesting to see this part through the narrator's lens. She describes the rituals in detail and doesn't always know why she is doing certain things, like she is also a stranger.
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Ghost Forest follows a girl as she remembers her and her family's relationship with their father, a largely absent figure in their lives as an "astronaut" father working in Hong Kong while the rest of their family lived in Vancouver. When her father passes, the narrator attempts to reconstruct all the parts she didn't know or misunderstood about her father as her way of grieving. 

Interestingly, I haven't heard the term "astronaut" father or "astronaut" family before even though I know quite of a few people whose families live in this way. This book hit really close to home and my heart because as an East Asian and Chinese person, I could resonate with some of the same cultural norms, superstitions and herbal remedies their family dealt with in the novel. 

Honestly, I cried pretty much for the entire second half of the novel. It was so beautifully written and structured as 1-2 page vignettes (as an ebook, not sure if it will come out this way in a physical book). For a short book, it left me wanting more but also satisfied with how perfect it is already. Definitely I book I would read again and again, can't wait to get a physical copy when it comes out for myself. Thank you Random House and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review, it was a privilege to read this novel. My review is also posted on Goodreads and a shortened version will be posted on Bookstagram @goldfishreads on Apr. 24, 2021.
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This is quiet and immersive story, following a young woman's grief in the loss of her astronaut father (astronaut being a description of parents who work in Hong Kong, while their family lives elsewhere). The story is poetic and reflective. Like many stories of grief, it's soft and quiet, sparing few words, allowing the reader to feel the grief of the main character in the empty spaces of the story. I thought this story was quite reflective of the experience of many Hong Kong immigrants in Vancouver, many who also have astronaut fathers, making a living to support their families abroad. The setting of the story resonated with me as a local Chinese Vancouverite, who also had an astronaut father living abroad for the few years I lived in Vancouver when I was younger. The places that they visit in Vancouver/Richmond are places that I recognize and have been to growing up, so the story felt extra special in that way.
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A woman grieves her father by asking her mother and grandmother about the family's journey from Hong Kong to Canada.
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Ghost Forest is a novel that reads like a memoir, (I’m still wondering if this is autofiction), written in nonlinear vignettes. This gave you the feeling of moving through space and time, which mirrors the immigrant family’s life. We get to see what it’s like to have a family split by distance and your time being split between two not-quite homes.  The stories range from living in Vancouver, the narrator’s mom and grandma’s childhoods, to the times the narrator visited her father as an adult, and his time in the hospital. While some of these were beautiful I’m still not sure how all of them are supposed to interconnect. I could relate to the complicated father relationship and only remembering the criticism and hurt feelings from time spent together. In the end, I found this story touching or sentimental but maybe a little insubstantial. 

Thank you One World and Random House for the ARC
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This was so well written and powerful.  The short, lyrical prose is something I always resonate with.  If you enjoyed the tone and writing style of Home is Not a Country, The Astonishing Color of After, and Creatures (all 5 stars for me!) then you will definitely enjoy this.  I always love when stories are told in short, powerful vignette style chapters. Highly recommend.
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I really wanted to love "Ghost Forest". I thought the flow of the writing was awkward and clunky. I liked the general plot, but overall the story didn't make a lasting impact. The majority of this story is told in short paragraphs, That made it difficult to feel connected to the characters. I appreciate reading books that are inclusive and diverse, but ultimately, "Ghost Forest" was just an average read for me. All the stars for the cover art though. Wow! 

Thank you, Netgalley and Random House for the digital ARC.
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Have you ever felt like a book was written just for you and almost completely matched your experiences? That's exactly how I felt about Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung.

A beautiful and heartbreaking story on the immigrant experience and the loss of a father. Pik-Shuen Fung writes in short essays/vignettes that effectively portray the raw emotion of her story on the page. 

Can't wait for this book to be published so I can get a print copy for my bookcase!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this mesmerizing story in advance!
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This was a breathtakingly beautiful book, and I have never read anything like it.  Told almost in stream of consciousness vignettes , it is a heartbreaking story of a woman grappling with her relationships with her Chinese parents, in particular her father.  I read it in one sitting, soaking up every poignant page.  Really unique and special- would highly recommend!
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Thank you for the advanced copy of this book! I will be posting my review on social media, to include Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and Storygraph!
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Thank you to One World for the e-ARC! 
Ghost Forest is a slim novel of short, poignant vignettes, in which our unnamed narrator reflects upon growing up as the eldest daughter in a Chinese-Canadian “astronaut family.” As a child, she immigrated to Canada with her family, but her father remained in Hong Kong for work. Now in her twenties, our narrator works through the grief of her father’s passing and tries to make sense of their relationship by combing through her memories and those of her mother and grandmother.

The narrator remembers her father as a stoic man: a tough critic who struggled to understand his daughter as she drifted away from his traditional perceptions of who she was supposed to become. We see how the possibilities of their relationship grow during his illness, as he is forced to slow down and she coaxes words and emotions from him that she has been aching to hear throughout her life. Even in these moments, she still struggles with the words left unsaid, the misunderstandings that seem to be embedded into their interactions ever since the impossibilities of parenting from across the world became clear to both of them.

I was surprised by the effective emotional range in such a short book, but perhaps these quick shifts between the highs and lows of the narrator’s experiences were possible because of its brief style, rather than in spite of it. Blank space heightened the impact of the words that were included. I actually wished that some sections were even sparser; sometimes I saw how a single vignette could have driven a point home more succinctly than the repetition of three similar recollections.

While the driving force of the narrative is our narrator’s tense relationship with her father, we are also shown how this arrangement affected each family member’s relationships with one another. This is an insular family story. Though the narrative attempts to expand this tight focus towards the end as the narrator moves forward with her own life, these scenes ultimately felt a bit out of place.

The vignettes, the vivid descriptions of food, and the emotional explorations of grief, family bonds, immigration, and generational and cultural differences reminded me of various aspects of What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, and Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang.
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This is so simply written, I would say almost naively written, but really packs a deep emotional punch. I think the simplistic writing and narratives reflect how simple life really should be, but the strong emotion is evocative of how complicated it always is. This book also provides a look into how life rarely turns out how we plan it, or necessarily want it, and how we lose track of what really matters - love. The story is also filled with interesting Chinese culture and attitudes.
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Such an interesting book, one whose format I have never read before. it’s intimate and tender, and sometimes I feel invasive of the author’s thoughts. I can feel the emotion, and relate to it in my own way. The flow of the chapters can be choppy, but most flow into one another.

I would say, this is a book that will make you cry and feel raw. It is an exploration of love and family, and grief. And it does it well.
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This is a beautiful and tender portrayal of immigration, culture, family, and grief. The chapters are more like vignettes, which makes for a quick read, but the impact of each vignette is meaningful. The characters and emotions feel very real, and I felt very deeply about the family dynamics by the end. Highly recommend.
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This novel is striking and gut wrenching at times. It is about a girl dealing with the death and grief of her father. 

It begins with a series of vignettes that are almost interviews of various family members. Later in the book, it is more serialized and follows a plot. The narrator is exploring her own feelings and recounting her experiences, following the death of her father. This book gives such an honest depiction of how it is to grieve a person when the relationship is strained and filled with misunderstandings. 

I highly recommend this captivating debut novel from Pik-Sheun Fung. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group for providing me the ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

(review will be posted on blog March 25th).
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This was a wonderful look into Chinese culture and the characters dealt with life, love and grief. Even though I really enjoyed the story, there were times when the transition between chapters was a little rough and impeded the flow of the story. Still worth the read.

My Review will be live on my blog Book Confessions on 3-26-2021.
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