Keith Chen, the second son of a traditional Taiwanese family of seven, runs away from the oppression of his village to Berlin in the hope of finding acceptance as a young gay man. The novel begins a decade later, when Chen has just been released from prison for killing his boyfriend.
... a rich and layered reading experience ... It’s a dramatic setup, but the first two-thirds of Ghost Town are deliciously slow, lingering in the details and inviting readers into the characters’ internal lives ... The final third contains the kind of grand revelations that can sometimes feel overwrought, especially after such a slow, meandering journey through memory and loss. But Chen sets it up masterfully enough that, instead, the ending feels inevitable ... full of gauzy prose and dark imagery. Darryl Sterk’s translation has a dreamlike quality, and it’s clear how much care he took to render the nuances of the original Taiwanese into English. This isn’t an easy read, but like a ghost, it lingers.
Each main character gets many opportunities to tell stories in a loose, this-reminds-me-of-that fashion — with important elements emerging in an incidental fashion — even when, as is quite often the case, they are detailing incidences of cruelty, especially from parents. The manifold ways in which their upbringing and natures combine to form their adult selves is another intricately formed element of an uncompromising, unsentimental, slyly humorous novel.
... certainly cinematic ... Chen divulges key events in his fiction--T's mysterious murder, the black dog's execution, Plenty's and neighbor Nut Wang's suicides--in multi-voiced, circular repetition, each time adding a little more information, as if to increase the circumference and take up more space. With each iterative reveal, Chen gloriously resurrects the dead--and emboldens the living.