Malaya, 1893. Pan Li Lan, a beautiful eighteen-year-old, has watched her Chinese merchant family decline since the death of her mother from smallpox during Li Lan’s early childhood. Her father lives in isolation and smokes too much opium: bad for business, as anyone can see from the decaying surroundings of their Malacca estate.
Li Lan knows that her prospects of finding a husband are poor. Still, she does not expect her father to offer a dead man as bridegroom—even one whose family promises to keep her in luxury for the rest of her life. When Li Lan’s would-be husband begins to haunt her dreams—and she falls for his cousin in reality—her desperation to escape leads her on a journey through the Chinese afterlife, searching for the key that will free her from a marriage she dreads. But she slowly realizes that to succeed, she must uncover the secrets of her past … and her prospective groom’s.
The Ghost Bride (HarperCollins, 2013) opens a window on a fascinating and little-known world in which a spunky young woman tests the boundaries of her traditional middle-class existence in pursuit of a better future. Yangsze Choo brings Li Lan and her family to vivid life, then spins them off into a mirror society with rules eerily familiar yet utterly strange. It’s a journey well worth taking.