The Ghost Bride

Written by Yangsze Choo
Review by Viviane Crystal

Li Lan is a young woman whose mother died and whose father lives in an opium-induced haze of mourning, with their fortunes diminished to the point of near-bankruptcy. She receives the shock of her life when her father asks her to become the “ghost bride” of the Lim family’s dead son. Popular “spirit weddings” existed in 1890s Malaya, primarily for financial reasons. A series of meetings and random conversations makes Li Lan realize there is something suspicious about the death of her soon-to-be spirit husband and that of another wife in the Lim family.

Li Lan becomes extremely distraught when she begins to dream nightly about the dead Lim Tian Ching, who appears with a haunting, manipulative demeanor. The interest that his cousin displays regarding a future marriage with her is at first romantically moving but then becomes highly questionable. One night Li Lan is so upset she takes too much powder provided by a medium and remains half alive and half dead, in parallel to the marriage she would soon enter. For several weeks she journeys through the Lim family’s home, the afterlife of the Plains of the Dead, and her home territory, which is besieged by ox-demons and hungry ghosts.

Intriguing, complex, and haunting, the story develops into a mystery which is cleverly interwoven with elements of the afterlife as believed by Buddhists, Taoists, Christians and Confucians (albeit on a surface level). Powers in this world, as in the afterlife, are selfish and capable of the utmost horrors and the twisting of accepted rules and regulations, yet truth will prevail no matter how difficult it is to attain. The Ghost Bride is quality historical fiction and a delightful read!