I feel like I’ve been hearing about this book for as long as it’s been in development, because I’m a big-time NPR listener, and Kat Chow, the author of Seeing Ghosts, was a frequent fourth chair on Pop Culture Happy Hour. And therefore, I was so pleased to read an ARC of Seeing Ghosts, a haunting (see what I did there) and engaging memoir of a daughter who lost her mother too soon and her attempts to understand it, heal from it, and go forward.
When Kat Chow was in her tweens, her mother died of cancer. It came on suddenly, to young Kat, but the impact of it, on her family–including her father, also an immigrant–was severe. Kat and her two sisters, who were older, had to relearn their lives without their mother, but something stuck with Kat. She could not forget her mother. She would see her. She would talk to her–and that’s what most of this book is, Kat talking to her mother. Remembering stories from her youth. Asking questions about family histories she was and wasn’t told. She talks about the months leading up to her mother’s death, and the years after–the troubles with finding the right tombstone. And then, she confronts her father, his possible role in her mother’s death, his own aging, and his desire to find the bones of his father, who went to Cuba and left a family behind, and never came back.
This book was really moving, and while it’s “sad” it’s also illuminating in a lot of ways. Chow is a gorgeous, inventive writer, and takes us into her mind and her soul really easily. I did have a few questions about the structural aspects of the book, but I was never too lost. I liked learning about the Chinese-Cuban immigration experience, which I had no idea was even a thing ever, and I recommend this to lovers of memoir.
A 4.3 star read for me!