Book Review: LINGHUN 



Publisher: Dark Matter INK

Follow Wenqi, Liam, and Mrs. in this modern gothic ghost story by Chinese-Canadian writer and immigrant, Ai Jiang. 

LINGHUN is set in the mysterious town of HOME, a place where the dead live again as spirits, conjured by the grief-sick population that refuses to let go. 

James Sabata’s BOOK REVIEW: LINGHUN by Ai JIang


What I brought to this book highly affected my feelings about it and the reasons I love it so much. My father passed away almost 23 years ago and I will never let that go. I've lost many friends and family throughout my life. At one point, I went through a ten-year span where I lost a minimum of two people each year. There was even the woman I once almost married, who became one of my closest friends and stayed that way until the day she lost her battle with breast cancer. There is the cat I'm still mourning almost daily, who was the lifeform closest to me in my life... To say I carry the dead with me is an understatement. To read this book and think maybe I hold on to them and possibly force them to stay tied to me is something that will haunt me forever. I bring all of that that with me. And it flavored my obsession with this book.


The story is centered around three characters who live in a town called HOME, where the dead can be summoned as ghosts by the living... but at a terrible cost.

Wenqi is a teenage girl who moves to HOME with her parents who hope to see their son who died ten years ago. Wenqi barely remembers her brother and feels neglected and lonely in her everyday life, but even more so when she moves to HOME.

Liam lives on the street with his parents. They are waiting for a house to come open. Liam's parents wish to see his sister who was stillborn.

Mrs. is an elderly woman who lives near Wenqi. She is the only homeowner in HOME who does not have a ghost in her home, due to her past actions. She uses her knowledge of the truth about HOME to help Wenqi.

While there are many more characters, these are the ones it is easiest to empathize with, and I did. Fully. And the parents of Liam and Wenqi as well.

The atmosphere of this novella feels like it comes directly from the emotions of every character. How each handles their grief or desire plays an important in part that affects the town as a whole. 


Grief, loss, and desire are the largest themes at play, as well as how obsessing over the past can eat one's mental health and damage one's relationships.

There is a lot of social commentary on Chinese culture, particularly the emphasis on the importance of male children, the patriarchial system that oppresses and silences women, domestic abuse, and domestic violence. There is a focus on the suffering from the expectations and demands of husbands and fathers and the struggle to find one's own agency.

Linghun additionally adds an interesting exploration of the challenges of belonging and assimilation, through the experiences of Wenqi and Liam, their loss of culture and identity, and the dangers to their present while everyone else holds so tightly to the past.


This book is going to stay with me. In the way I've held on to the dead too long in my own life (and probably won't stop) this book will continue to follow me, showing up when I least expect it.

And I can't think of any better compliment to Ai Jiang than knowing I will never forget this story, these characters, and this concept. And I will carry it with me as well.

1 billion stars*. Highly recommended.

* I don't do stars, but if i did, this sounds right.