19 Dec / Ghost Music by An Yu [in Booklist]
A thought-to-be-missing piano prodigy recalls an old friend who “used to quote [Oscar Wilde] a lot. He said to live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people only exist.”
In An Yu’s follow-up to her lauded debut, Braised Pork (2020), also an atmospheric study in disconnected relationships, Song Yan is one of many who exist under layers of others’ expectations. She’s always followed the piano, encouraged by her concert pianist father. Yet despite her talent, she “never became a concert pianist and settled for being a teacher instead.”
Her three-year marriage to Bowen is devolving as his job at BMW removes him for months at a time from their Beijing home, sending him to Shanghai and further. His mother has recently taken their second bedroom, and her physical proximity magnifies the emotional distance. Song Yan wants a child, but Bowen absolutely refuses; a missing sister, another wife, an unwanted son all loom.
In order to live, prodded by talking mushrooms, that elusive prodigy, and, finally, the music, Song Yan will need to escape her stifling existence. Yu delivers another intimate, intricate performance.