Two books and a pile of anonymous letters bring together the lives of three unknown women in another delicate masterpiece of psychological fiction by the architect of words, Roan Ching-Yueh. Mysterious Women takes the term “narrative love triangle” to a whole new level, weaving inner and outer voices together with marvelous dexterity.
One day, a woman receives two heavy manuscripts in the mail, the first marked “Diary,” and the second, “Novel.” Though she doesn’t recognize the sender, she opens both out of curiosity. In doing so, she falls from one world into another, and then another.
The “Diary,” which itself reads like a novel, appears to be that of a middle-aged male novelist. Recently divorced, his literary prowess seems starkly at odds with his fragile mental state: a recent divorce has spurred a mid-life crisis, amidst which he has decided to write a novel about love and faith. Yet as he tries to think through his new project, his life is interrupted by a daily series of letters from an anonymous female reader, which insert a new voice into his already chaotic mind. The “Novel,” meanwhile, tells the story of a young woman’s journey through privation as a child into emotional maturity, love, and sexual desire: raised by her grandmother, the female protagonist marries young, has an affair that produces a daughter, then shutters herself off from both husband and lover in an attempt to foster a persistent and pure love for her baby.
Roan Ching-Yueh once again gives free rein to his talent for psychological description in this multivalent narrative trip through mind and spirit. Enchanting language turns the reader from viewpoint to viewpoint, and from life to life with consummate ease, as Roan’s characters fight and converse with themselves and each other.