A mother cuts her daughter’s hair because her own starts falling out. A woman leaves her boyfriend because he reminds her of a corpse; another undergoes brain surgery to try to live more comfortably in higher temperatures. A widow physically transforms into her husband so that she does not have to grieve.
In She Is Haunted, these renditions of the author search for recognition and connection, and, more than anything else, small moments of empathy. But in what world will she move beyond her haunted past and find compassion for herself?
With piercing insights into transnational Asian identity, intergenerational trauma and grief, the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, the inexplicable oddities of female friendship, and the love of a good dog, Paige Clark has crafted an exquisite, moving and sophisticated debut work of fiction.
Paige Clark’s She is Haunted is a collection of eighteen short stories, each grappling with issues of recognition and connection, as well as loneliness and intimacy. Other themes peppered throughout the book include identity, grief, intergenerational trauma, sickness and hurt.
My favourite stories are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Gwendolyn Wakes, In A Room of Chinese Women, A Woman in Love, Why My Hair is Long, She is Haunted, and Snow Angels.
“I know lots of things now that I’m dead. Peter from Apartment Two has a spastic bladder. My former boss Morgan keeps her toenails in a gold jewellery box. My brother and his wife are trying for a baby. I always excuse myself before things get too heated. I don’t know much about my mother yet. I am waiting for grief to catch her, but she mostly seems ashamed-of her body, of what it made.”
Strengths lie in Paige’s ability to evoke instant imagery, with piercing prose and sharp dialogue. There are moments of humour in some of the stories, as well as irony and wit.
Stories vary in length, but all are self-contained. With females taking centre-stage across most of the book, each story in She is Haunted grapples with multiple themes and tones and will resonate with readers of all ages. Many of the stories offer insights into intergenerational trauma and Asian heritage. Each story possesses an element of strength and capability, but together, the collection is a really incredible piece of writing. Naturally, some stories won’t resonate with every reader but that’s the beauty of a collection — it’s about finding the ones you love most amongst a suite of impeccable work.
“Every morning I wake up, put on his robe and his slippers and shuffle to the bathroom. In the mirror, I hope to see his face instead of mine. I try to erase the woman I find with cakes makeup and waterproof mascara. She is relentless.”
Readers will be able to relate to elements within each story, and perhaps a reader’s favourite story will give insight into what kind of person they are. Short stories allow us to glimpse into the most compelling moment of a much wider journey, and will often leave us with much to ponder. Familial dynamic has a strong presence in the collection, particularly mother-daughter relationships, the connection between romantic partners, and also female friendship.
“Gwendolyn scanned the screen. She had an eagle eye for errors. The numbers were all in the low eighties at least. There was a ninety-six. And two ninety-twos. She reached out and put her hand to Forrest’s upper back. She couldn’t recall the last time she had touched someone who wasn’t her mother.”
Evocative, electric and moving, She is Haunted is Paige’s debut and will please seasoned readers, and those who love short stories and literary works. Readership skews female, 25+
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
She is Haunted
Allen & Unwin Book Publishers