[REVIEW]Linghun, by Ai Jiang


Linghun is a Mandarin word that can be translated as spirit or soul.

It’s also the title of Canadian-Chinese writer Ai Jiang’s new novella. Fittingly, it’s about a place called HOME, where families impoverish themselves in order to call the spirits of their beloved dead back into their lives. Wenqi’s there because her parents can’t let her favored older brother go, even though she’s now older than he’ll ever be. Liam doesn’t care about his never-born sister, but that doesn’t stop his scheming parents from using him in their plans to bring her back. Sad, lonely Mrs. may hold the key to the entire neighborhood, but she’s too consumed with lifetimes-old grief to really know.

Bringing folks back from the other side never goes well in stories, and this one is no exception. A lot goes wrong in HOME, on both a micro- and meta-level. Refreshingly, it’s not always the things you’d expect. The conflict always comes from a place you weren’t expecting, and the world-building darts off into dystopia and gothic horror at times and the scares are more existential than visceral. There are a lot of different types of horror crammed into this brief book, but it works.

Linghun isn’t always clear. Its resolution kind of lingers, unfulfilled but still final. But grief is like that too, and ultimately, that’s what this is a book about. The madness and horror that lie behind guilty, unresolved grief may not give you jump scares, but they’re deeply unsettling, especially when they return in unexpected ways, or when others refuse to allow you to heal. Grief is almost never neatly handled, and Linghun’s trailing ending reminds us that unchecked grief can drag even the most well-intentioned of people into a living death themselves.

A good dinner, forgiveness, and some closure to Linghun.

Big thanks to the author for sending an advance copy of this book. It debuts on April 4th, 2023! Congratulations!

(Beautiful people, fellow readers, I know that it’s too much to wish that none of you are grieving so instead I’ll hope that your grief is tempered with joyful memories of the people and places you miss. Thank you for reading, and if you want more diverse books for diverse readers, click around the site or visit the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Reminder; if you buy from our bookshop, we get paid. Not very much, which is kind of alright because there is no “we”, this site is all the work of one very solo Black lady with a bunch of other jobs who should probably go to bed in a minute , but every click and purchase is appreciated and helps me buy more books. Now, go read something good! Peace!)


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