The Tjoa ash house originally intended for the family’s ancestral tablets has stood at the top of Kota Cahaya’s exclusive Green Hill for a century. Now, it is all drooping lintels and sagging roof; a haunted house with a haunted heir in it – Arno Tjoa, a Barbie-doll fixated cripple whom Sister Mary Michael, the clairvoyant nun, has been sent to set free.
Arno believes that Bing-Fa — the fascinating spirit of a pipa-diva trapped by a ghost marriage to Arno’s grandfather — is the key to solving the misfortunes plaguing the house. All will be well with Girl, the comatose maid he is obsessed with, Irene Tjoa his controlling aunt, and the Tjoa fortunes if Bing Fa is released from her doll-house prison.
However, as the family’s skeletons are unearthed, the nun realizes it is not in her power to save everyone or everything. Who or what must be sacrificed? What must be left to turn to dust?
Set in a 21 st century South-East-Asian port city where spirits still linger, The Ash House is the story of an overseas-Chinese merchant family haunted by the legacy of love gone wrong, with an ending both unexpected and heartbreaking.
Audrey Chin’s The Ash House is the dark and compelling story of the Tjoa family. Sister Mary Michael is sent to the family home to rid Arno Tjoa of the spirit haunting him. Arno believes the spirit of Bing-Fa, who was trapped in a ghost marriage to his grandfather is the key to solving all his problems. All he wants is to be with Girl, the family maid lying in a coma. With his controlling Aunt circling with a view to taking control of the Tjoa fortune, Sister Mary Michael soon begins to unearth the secrets of the family’s past.
The Ash House is a relatively short read, but one that captivated me from the very first page. This Gothic ghost story was beautifully written and I really enjoyed Chin’s writing style. This is my first time reading Audrey Chin’s books, but it definitely won’t be the last. The story was well-plotted, hooking the reader deeper and deeper into the secrets of the Tjoa family. Whilst this is a ghost story it also tackles some complex issues, namely around how women and migrant workers are treated.
Chin has created some really fascinating and complex characters in The Ash House. All the characters felt well created and I particularly felt for Girl and all that she goes through. The Ash House is a dark and atmospheric read. If you’re looking for a haunting, captivating story that will keep you captivated till the very last page, this should definitely be your next read.