The Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo
The Ghost Bride Cover

The Ghost Bride


Small pox has left Li Lan's father lost in an almost constant cloud of opium escape after his wife's death. They are bankrupt and Li Lan has few options for her future, until her father receives a proposal from the wealthy Lim family, asking for Li Lan's hand in marriage. The catch? Her betrothed is dead.

Thus we are introduced to the old Chinese custom of ghost brides, which promises a woman comfort for the rest of her life, but what kind of life can she have as a widow before she is even married? To complicate matters, her betrothed is an unpleasant man, and his cousin, Tian Bai, is much more to Li Lan's liking.

This is a love story that initially seems like it will walk a certain, obvious path, but when Li Lan ends up in the after life herself (though not dead), things take some interesting twists and turns as Li Lan tries to escape the Lim family and learns more about her own.

I loved the exploration of Chinese customs regarding death and the afterlife, from burnt offerings, to politics. Choo weaves a beautiful tapestry of myth and custom within Li Lan's personal adventure.

Li Lan is an interesting character. She is not particularly strong and resourceful and she must often rely on others for help because she considers herself to be "just a girl." As much as I am all for grrl power, I appreciated Li Lan's place within her world and liked where she ended up. It was not the perfect happy ending expected, and considering the circumstances, it was a surprisingly realistic one.

I have wanted to read this book since it popped up on the 2013 Goodreads Readers Choice list, but when I saw that the audiobook was narrated by the author herself, I eagerly snapped it up. As much as I adore many narrators, I enjoy listening to authors read their own work because then you know you are getting to hear their story and characters exactly as they sound in their heads. I loved the little sighs and chuckles, the cadences and pauses -- all the things that became unique to each character. It made everyone feel that much more real.