Ghost Musicby An Yu
From the author of the “original and electric” Braised Pork (Time), An Yu’s enchanting and contemplative novel of music and mushrooms follows a former concert pianist searching for the truth about a vanished musician
For three years, Song Yan has filled the emptiness of her Beijing apartment with the tentative notes of her young piano students. She gave up on her own career as a concert pianist many years ago, but her husband Bowen, an executive at a car company, has long rebuffed her pleas to have a child. He resists even when his mother arrives from the southwestern Chinese region of Yunnan and begins her own campaign for a grandchild. As tension in the household rises, it becomes harder for Song Yan to keep her usual placid demeanor, especially since she is troubled by dreams of a doorless room she can’t escape, populated only by a strange orange mushroom.
When a parcel of mushrooms native to her mother-in-law’s province is delivered seemingly by mistake, Song Yan sees an opportunity to bond with her, and as the packages continue to arrive every week, the women stir-fry and grill the mushrooms, adding them to soups and noodles. When a letter arrives in the mail from the sender of the mushrooms, Song Yan’s world begins to tilt further into the surreal. Summoned to an uncanny, seemingly ageless house hidden in a hutong that sits in the middle of the congested city, she finds Bai Yu, a once world-famous pianist who disappeared ten years ago.
A gorgeous and atmospheric novel of art and expression, grief and survival, memory and self-discovery, Ghost Music animates contemporary Beijing through the eyes of a lonely yet hopeful young woman and gives vivid color and texture to the promise of new beginnings.
“An Yu’s lush, delicate novel Ghost Music unfolds like Claude Debussy’s atmospheric piece for solo piano Rêverie, lulling the reader into protagonist Song Yan’s surrealistic daydream of a life. As the former pianist and young wife confronts the stark reality of her marriage with suppressed but deeply felt emotions, she begins to test the limits of her freedom and finds that like the mysterious mushrooms that appear in the mail and in her dreams, she, too, may thrive in darkness.”—Chris Cander, USA Today-bestselling author of The Weight of a Piano
“To read Ghost Music’s spare prose is to discover its cogency. Yu allows our quiet manias to grow apace with her staggering imagination. An Yu’s second novel affirms her as one of our most important writers.”—Zain Khalid, author of Brother Alive
“Produces its own kind of mind trip . . . Written with a shimmering lightness that maintains, as Jia Jia thinks of her watery visions, ‘some balance between mystery and simplicity’ . . . An also tucks a touching love story into the strange proceedings, which supplies enough incentive to keep Jia Jia—and the reader—equally invested in boring old reality.”—Wall Street Journal
“An original and electric narrative . . . Yu’s language is sparse yet surreal . . . In Braised Pork, Yu raises provocative questions about why we get fixated on those moments—and how they might relate to the company we crave.”—TIME, “New Books You Should Read”
“Braised Pork’s central journey is interior: the incremental and circuitous process of a human mind trying to come to terms with itself . . . A haunting, coolly written novel . . . Intensely atmospheric.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Yu’s prose is crisp and never tedious, with bursts of startling imagery amid the otherwise restrained style.”—New York Times Book Review
“A startlingly original debut . . . While it’s easy to see that Braised Pork borrows something of Haruki Murakami’s brand of strange melancholia, there’s a startlingly original imagination of its own at work here . . . A sensitive portrait of alienated young womanhood.”—Guardian
“Dreamy and surreal . . . What follows is her journey of rediscovery—of her passion, of her spirituality, of her artistic abilities, and of herself—that evolves in her real life and in dreams. It’s otherworldly and deeply moving.”—BuzzFeed
“In searching for answers to her husband’s untimely death, a young widow in Beijing finds room to explore her own existential angst . . . Yu’s original debut spins an increasingly surreal tale which brilliantly mirrors Jia Jia’s own discombobulation . . . Proof positive that rebirths are entirely possible—even in one lifetime.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An’s poignant debut tells the story of a young woman trying to find purpose in her life in the wake of disorienting personal tragedy . . . An draws Jia Jia with great affection and sympathy as the character grapples with the elusive meaning of her dreams and powerful emotional experiences. Readers will be moved by An’s mature meditation on the often inexplicable forces that shape the trajectory of an individual life.”—Publishers Weekly
“Poignant . . . A moving, magical parable about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment . . . Enchanting.”—Shelf Awareness
“The premise itself is intriguing enough, but the real magic is in watching Jia Jia stretch her limbs as she leaves behind a rather restrictive marriage and encounters places and people she never imagined. Come for the mystery, stay for self-discovery of a liberated woman.”—Literary Hub
“Bold yet understated, Braised Pork is the debut of a supremely confident and gifted writer.”—Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation
“This exquisite novel is many things: a detective story in which the real object of pursuit is how one makes meaning of a sometimes ineffable existence; a meditation on the talismanic power of art and the indefatigability of the human spirit; and a many-faceted, perfectly cut gem of psychological portraiture set in well-wrought sentences burnished to a gorgeous luster. The emotions in this book keep pace with you, shadowing you with a quiet intensity, until in the last stretch they overtake you completely.”—Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
“Yu is a fantastic storyteller. The prose is sly and controlled, yet page after page, I found myself spellbound by a story that does what all writers hope to do, which is to make the familiar unfamiliar.”—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry
“What a singular, slippery, transfixing novel this is. An Yu achieves a hypnotizing emotional clarity as she takes her narrator ever further from a stifling life in Beijing into a watery realm unlike any I’ve read before.”—Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
“Braised Pork is mesmerizing, incisive, and utterly disarming. An Yu writes beautifully about loneliness, the experience of isolation—from others, from one’s own past—and the possibility of human connection, however fragile.”—Rosie Price, author of What Red Was
“What a voice An Yu unfurls in Braised Pork. So elegant and poised, so tuned to the great mysteries of love and loss. Like a breeze on a still day, hers is a sound I didn’t know I needed until I felt it. Braised Pork is a major debut.”—John Freeman