cover image Ghost Music

Ghost Music

An Yu. Grove, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5962-5

Yu (Braised Pork) mesmerizes with this surreal story of music and mushrooms. Song Yan, 29, a former concert pianist turned piano teacher in Beijing, has recurring dreams of a dark, doorless room where a ghost mushroom speaks to her. Meanwhile, her life is fraying: Yu brilliantly captures the dying throes of Song Yan’s three-year marriage to Bowen, a BMW salesman; her untenable relationship with her mother-in-law; and her long-standing friendship with a supportive hairdresser. Everyone seems to know more about Bowen’s late nights at work and extended trips to Shanghai and Munich than Song Yan does, and they also know life-shattering secrets about Bowen’s past, including that he has a grieving ex-wife and a young son that might explain why he has been unwilling to have a child with Song Yan. Then there is the unsolved mystery of legendary pianist Bai Yu, who disappeared a decade ago, but might be the one who’s anonymously sending Song Yan rare mushrooms. Along the way, Song Yan continues teaching and reflects on her favorite pieces by Chopin, Debussy, and Schubert. As Song Yan relentlessly surges toward independence and away from solitude and loneliness, Yu’s blistering narrative reaches a plaintive end. Readers will be enthralled. Agent: Anna Webber, United Agents. (Jan.)