When pain and misfortune seemingly escalate beyond the limits of reality, a twisted and unreal narrative may be best suited to describe them. In this unsettling novel of contemporary irreality, author Kan Yao-Ming resurrects the dead to defend the living.
Kindergarten teacher Huang Li-Hua gets drunk at a staff party and is raped by a male colleague. She goes immediately to the police, and from there to court, but her difficulty in proving the sex was non-consensual leads to frustration, failure, and ridicule. Unable to bear the hostile stares of those around her, Huang Li-Hua tries her best to abandon her life and environs.
Her only protector in the process turns out to be her long-dead grandmother, whose spirit appears, folded in a trunk, three days before Li-Hua’s assault. Once released, Li-Hua’s grandmother brings Li-Hua into strange company: the “Past Lives Society,” a group of dead old women who travel around convincing lonely elderly souls to join them. On the road, the women share the stories of their lives and deaths, stories that will change Li-Hua’s own life forever.
Dark clouds loom over Kan Yao-Ming’s unreal world, in which brutality and loneliness are frequent visitors. Yet in it we see how tragedy can serve as antidote to tragedy, and how narrative provides the energy for sustaining life.