cover image Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

Kat Chow. Grand Central, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-538-71632-8

Journalist Chow writes longingly about her mother, who died from cancer, in this intimate debut about a life shaped by loss. “It is not incorrect to say that for years, the way my family grieved my mother was to avoid acknowledging her altogether,” she writes. In an effort to preserve her mother’s memory after her mother’s death in 2004, Chow traced the story of her mother’s life, from her birth in China in 1955 through her troubled marriage with Chow’s father in Connecticut to her painful last days. Woven in are several other family specters, including her maternal grandmother’s death at age 41 (“it seemed all the Yu women died young”); generational schisms caused by the Chinese Communist Party; and the infant death of Chow’s older brother. While deep emotion drives her writing, Chow generally avoids oversentimentality and buoys what could otherwise be an overwhelmingly despondent narrative with bursts of joy and irreverence—such as memories of her mother’s fondness for “kissing books” and playing pranks on her children. The result is a moving depiction of grief at its most mundane and spectacular. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (Aug.)