I was really excited to read ‘The Ghost Bride’ by Yanhgsze Choo. In fact, I was hooked at the title–I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. Unfortunately, it just didn’t do it for me. Choo’s debut novel takes on the tradition of Chinese spiritual marriages, where marriages are arranged with one or more deceased persons. In The Ghost Bride, the main character, Li Lan, is haunted by a repugnant (I can’t think of any other word to describe him) dead man who is trying to make her his bride through an arranged marriage orchestrated by his mother. As Li Lan is being continually swept between worlds, she pines over the dead man’s cousin, Tian Bai, a thoughtful and good-hearted man.
While acknowledged as a strong first novel, it just didn’t hold my interest. It was more fantasy than ghost story. As I read, I felt very discombobulated as if I were living in between planes of the spiritual world. At times my head felt fuzzy with reading it. If this was Choo’s intent, she nailed it. More unsatisfactory to me is that in the end Li Lan gets exactly what she wants, but instead–out of nowhere–chooses another path. And while it would have been interesting to see how this new angle unfolded, the story abruptly ended (right when it got engrossing). If only Choo would have continued it a little further to explore this new twist, it might have saved the book for me.