Self-Portrait with Ghost: Short Stories

We rated this book:


The complex textures of women’s lives are central to Meng Jin’s stirring collection of short stories Self-Portrait with Ghost. The specter of death and transformation undergird each of the ten stories, exquisitely narrated in emotive prose. Each story is contained in its own world: a train station (“First Love”), an unnamed island (“Phillip is Dead”), and a coastal city (“In the Event”). Place-making is only a fraction of Jin’s strength in depicting their very ordinary and absurd lives. Each personal story occurs amid burdensome societal shifts: a cultural revolution, a pandemic, or widescale industrialization. Everyone has a secret, often shameful.

Memory is key in excavating the depths of love, pain, and unrecompensed desires. Jin excels in character building, which is often difficult in the short story form. Jin excels in portraying women at the precipice of change, each with vivid and profound emotional lives. They are tormented by the past and beleaguered by uninhabited fears (see “Suffering” and “Selena and Ruthie.”) The shadow of America – at once distant and close – comes through a small tub of face cream (“Suffering”) or musings on feminism (“Three Women”). Ghosts – real and imagined – pay a visit for absolution or simply to be heard.

Reviewed By:

Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 224 pages
Publisher HarperCollins
Publish Date 05-Jul-2022
ISBN 9780063160712 Buy this Book
Issue October 2022
Category Biographies & Memoirs