The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo has become one of my favorite books. It is like nothing I have read before and it tells a ghost story unlike any I have ever heard. I have long had a fascination with Asian supernatural beliefs and The Ghost Bride is a journey into these beliefs. The novel is set in old Malaya. Malayasia at this time is still deeply set in old Chinese customs. The novel is the story Li Lan, the daughter of a bankrupt family with no hopes of a proper marriage for her. It is because of this that her family considers an unusual offer for her from the rich and powerful Lim family. She has received a rare offer to become a ghost bride to the Lim family's deceased son.
This dreamlike book pulls its heroin through the ghostly world of the dead and into a realm of superstition and magic. It is beautifully written and oddly educational. The author introduced me to a new concept of death and dying. According to Choo, "The folk tradition of marriages to ghosts or between ghosts usually occurred in order to placate spirits or allay a haunting. There are a number of allutsions to it in Chinese literature but its roots eem to lie in ancestor worship. Matches were sometimes made between two deceased persons, with the families on both sides recognizing the marriage as a tie between them. However, there were other cases in which a living person was married to the dead. These primarily took the form of a living person fulfilling the with of a dying sweetheard, or to give the rank of a wife to a mistress or concubine who had produced an heir. In rare cases, an impoverished girl was taken into a household as a widow to perform the ancestral rites for a man who died without a wife of descendants. In such a case, an actual marriage ceremony would be performed with a rooser standing in for the dead bridegroom."
Choo does an amazing job integrating this old costume into a fictional account of a young woman coming of age. I can't wait to read more books by Choo.