After her mother dies unexpectedly of cancer, a Chinese American writer and journalist weaves together the story of the fallout of grief that follows her extended family as they emigrate from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America.
... Chow’s memoir is a memorial to her mother delivered in a graceful, captivating voice. Like several acts of tribute to the dead in this book about grief and family, immigration and ancestors, it’s accomplished long after the loss that it marks ... A certain kind of sorrow lingers because a part of us wants it and wills it to persist, and Chow artfully and intelligently maps which kind of grief this is ... Chow exercises such control that her tone manages somehow to be both brooding and affectionately humorous ... gives flesh to this theory, the idea that loss of country and loss of loved ones can hook us with similar perpetual sorrow, through storytelling that brings alive both Chow’s mother and father, drawing their characters tenderly but with unflinching honesty.
The book reads like a memory album, of enduring images of Chow's mother and of family treks and private jokes ... Seeing Ghosts is no tearjerker. The book’s emotions are restrained, dry, even (an inheritance from Chow’s father?). It doesn’t manipulate, nor does it seek to recreate an idyllic past ... As Chow grows older in these pages, she also grows more open and willing, enough so that she was able to write this fine book. We all have our ghosts that need witnessing, for their sake and for ours. In baring her memories and her soul, Chow reminds us why this task is so important, and how it lets us heal.
... magnificent ... In carefully arranged pieces, anecdotes laid together like mosaic tiles, Chow unleashes the power of her own grief after the loss of her mother ... Chow excavates her own history with ruthless honesty and deep respect ... It would be easy to characterize Chow's book as yet another grief memoir, another tale of how to wade through the years of loneliness and struggle after the loss of a parent. That would be selling the story short, not to mention failing to grasp its scope. Seeing Ghosts is about Florence, yes, but also about everything Florence's family means--a patchwork quilt of Chinese Americans making sense of the amorphous American Dream. Chow does this most skillfully in scenes with her father, a man who struggles with happiness, whatever that means, yet seems desperately to want ... Chow's memoir is not an easy book, which doesn't mean it's not an easy read. The prose is tight and lovely, one page and one fragment intertwining with the next. The experience of reading it is enjoyable, despite the subject matter. But that is where Chow's journalistic skill triumphs: she feeds readers an impossibly challenging topic through beautifully seasoned bites. The result is that readers turn the last page having swallowed a delicious meal, only to realize there is so much more for them to digest. Seeing Ghosts is a book that will leave readers thinking, mourning, probing the absences and injustices of American life, equally haunted and soothed by ghosts