The book is a collection of short essays about the author’s father, who was a spirit medium in a small town in Taiwan. Vaguely reminiscent of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Autumn, the book reads as an intimate letter of the author to her father, an introspective search for his life and a reflection on the author’s own self and her increasingly complex relationship with her father.
The book consists of independent non-fiction short essays about different aspects of her father’s life. These include, but are not limited to, the author’s own childhood, her father’s relationship with her, his relationship with his other relatives and friends, the people who went to his father in order to ask questions to the spirits, and how her father’s sensitiveness towards the spiritual world affected both his life and that of his family. Each of the essays focuses on one topic, with the question “Who is my father?” as the leading thread connecting all of them. It is not so much about the job of her father as a spirit medium than about his role as a father and his attitude towards life, written from the perspective of a daughter and a woman.
Written in a simple and plain style, with not many cultural references that are hard to understand for foreign audiences, the author reflects upon the role of the father in a family and his relationship with its members, especially herself. This is the real starting point of the book, whereas the fact that the author’s father is a spirit medium seems to be an incidental detail trying to attract the reader – in fact, this is not an aspect that is dealt with in a very profound way throughout the essays, which focus instead on anecdotes of daily life. The book is a beautiful account of the relationship between a daughter and her father, and about a man’s life. One could argue that the book serves as the link between the author and her father, in the same way that her father is as a link between the spirits and the people, giving answers to their worries.
The main appeal of this book is perhaps the psychological deepness of the character that the author manages to build – by dissecting her father’s personality and her own relationship with him, the reader can catch glimpses of a man that has always been a mystery for the author. Apart from that, foreign readers may also find exotic the author’s account of life in rural Taiwan and Chinese traditional beliefs, as opposed to modern societies, as well as the life of people belonging to a very different cultural background. On a different note, fans of Karl Jung’s work might find the stories about the author’s dreams and the divine particularly appealing. In short, this book makes for slow, introspective reading.
- Lin Che Li: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=380
- Hosting the Divine: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=419