Sunday, December 26, 2010

Water Ghosts

By Shawna Yang Ryan

From the back of the book:

Locke, California. 1928. Three bedraggled Chinese women appear out of the mist in a small Chinese farming town on the Sacramento River. Two are unknown to its residents, while the third if the long-lost wife of Richard Fong, the handsome manager of the local gambling parlor. Left behind in China many years earlier, her unexpected arrival throws his already complicated life into upheaval. As the lives of the townspeople become inextricably intertwined with the newly arrived women, a premonition foretells a deep unhappiness for all involved. And when a flood threatens the village, the frightening power of these mysterious women is finally revealed.

“Water Ghosts” is based on a Chinese superstition that they carried to America when they established neighborhoods in California during their emigration to the States. They came to this country for many of the same reasons other groups did, mainly to find work to support their families.

However, there were some differences, such as many of them left their wives behind while they established themselves. Some eventually returned to bring their loved ones to America; others never did.

Shawna Yang Ryan has done a very good job of bringing these traditions and superstitions to life. She obviously did her research and did a wonderful job of putting it into words.

This is truly an interesting tale, but it requires paying attention to what’s going on. That, in itself, makes it a little complicated as I tend to have interruptions when I’m reading … after all, my 21-month-old grandson is usually running around nearby.

But that shouldn’t discourage you from reading “Water Ghosts” and learning about this centuries old superstition in the Chinese culture. Give it a try!

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