1911, Canton. It is the eve of the historic Hsinsai Revolution, when China shifted from the Qing Dynasty to the short-lived Republic. Asia is overrun with foreign businessmen of questionable character. Political upheaval is on everyone's mind. The country’s economic future is uncertain.
And there was a girl who witnessed it all.
She had many names, Ling Yoo, Ling Ling, Little Sister, and Alice. She was a girl from a simple background, toiling away in the world's oldest profession, but ambitious, and she worked hard to educate herself. A little person stumbling through history, observing from the sidelines. Her story should have been lost forever.
Torn between love for her homeland and the love of a wealthy British merchant, how can she remain true to herself and find her destiny?
And there is a ghost. A shadow of a figure follows her and her decisions, questioning her every step. Is it a warning…or a vision?
THE GHOST OF LOTUS MOUNTAIN BROTHEL by Ray Hecht is best described as a coming of age story with the deepest twist I've ever read. I've read a few short stories by Hecht last year, but I had no idea he was capable of writing something with this much emotion and personal insight. Although this story is not as polished as Memoirs of a Geisha, the raw storytelling is so much more engaging, especially with the way Ling Ling interacts with the various people in her life.
While heavily based in Chinese history, Ling Ling's struggles are relatable in any culture. Who hasn't grappled with self-identity and working to achieve life goals? I appreciate the way Hecht focuses on the main character's mission to educate herself, rather than get mired in the details of her profession.
When the author finally unveils the mystery of the ghost who visits Ling Ling, Hecht reveals his talent for transforming historical politics into a spiritual awakening, which transcends space and time.
If you enjoy novels by Lisa See or Tracy Chevalier, I think you'll enjoy this novella.