The Ghost Bride
August 6, 2013
A young woman who is facing a destitute future as her father's Opium habit has let his business wither away is given the very odd request of becoming a ghost bride to a recently deceased wealthy young man. While this is a rare, but real, occurrence in some families - Li Lan's possible engagement takes a bizarre and dangerous turn. Her bridegroom can visit her in her dreams, and threatens her family if she doesn't become his bride. One starts to think this won't be a marriage 'in name only' but perhaps involving her death.
Then a mystery arises as to just HOW he died.
When things become too much for Li Lan and she accidently takes an overly large amount of sleeping potion to make him stay out of her dreams - this book totally jumps the shark. For most of the remainder of the novel she is in a place between the land of the dead and the living - featuring "lawmakers" that are half oxen/half human, starving ghosts, lovelorn half ghosts running from eternity and then other not quite ghosts who decide to help her solve the mystery of the bridegroom she doesn't want and what happened to him.
Very surreal - very much in the vein of Guillermo del Toro's stories. But this novel is rich in the history and societal rules of this "not Chinese" (in other words, rules by other nations and taking on their influences, combined with their own ancestral influences) region of Asia and I really enjoyed traveling to another place on earth.........and then we went to a place not of earth.........
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy--including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets--and the truth about her own family--before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.