Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho is a collection of short stories that showcases the author’s talent for blending Malaysian culture, folklore, and modernity into her narratives. Published in 2014, this collection is Cho‘s debut work and has garnered critical acclaim for its originality and creative storytelling.
The book consists of fifteen short stories, each of which can be read as a standalone piece, but together they form a cohesive whole that explores the themes of identity, family, and community. Cho‘s writing style is engaging, humorous, and at times poignant, making it easy for readers to immerse themselves in the world she has created.
One of the standout stories in the collection is “The House of Aunts.” The story is told from the perspective of a young girl named Mei who has been sent to live with her aunts in Malaysia for the summer. Mei is initially frightened by her aunts, who are all unmarried and possess strange powers. However, as she spends more time with them, she learns to appreciate their eccentricities and the unique perspective they have on life. The story is a coming-of-age tale that explores the complex relationships between family members and the role they play in shaping our identity.
Another memorable story is “One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland.” The story takes place in modern-day London and follows the adventures of a group of Malaysian students who stumble upon a portal to Fairyland while trying to get home. The story is a clever twist on the classic portal fantasy genre, with Cho blending Malaysian folklore and British culture to create a unique and entertaining story.
The collection also features stories that delve into Malaysian mythology, such as “The Fish Bowl” and “The First Witch of Damansara.” These stories offer a fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Malaysia, with Cho weaving traditional beliefs and practices seamlessly into her narratives.
One of the strengths of Spirits Abroad is Cho‘s ability to infuse her stories with humor without detracting from the underlying themes. This is particularly evident in stories such as “The Earth Spirit’s Favorite Anecdote” and “The Mystery of the Suet Swain,” which both feature supernatural beings with quirky personalities.
Cho‘s writing is also notable for its attention to detail, with her descriptions of food, clothing, and customs providing a vivid and immersive reading experience. The descriptions of Malaysian street food in particular are mouth-watering and will leave readers longing for a taste of the real thing.
Overall, Spirits Abroad is a delightful collection of stories that showcases Zen Cho‘s talent for blending Malaysian culture, folklore, and modernity into her narratives. The stories are engaging, humorous, and poignant, with themes that will resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re a fan of speculative fiction or simply looking for a new and exciting voice in contemporary literature, Spirits Abroad is a must-read.