Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow, pub. Grand Central Publishing In the final moments of this deeply affecting, vividly written memoir, Kat Chow ruminates on what it means to grasp at the memory of someone who, having always been there, is suddenly gone. She is thinking about her dead mother, the primary subject of this book, but her contemplations would be immediately recognisable to anyone who has ever lost a loved one – anyone who has ever grappled with the weightlessness of absence when what the grieving want is the hard substance of a person’s presence. But death affords no such consolation, and the business of trying to keep those who have died with us as much as we can is more difficult than it seems. It is, to borrow from this book’s title, a perpetual seeing of ghosts: we see those we lose everywhere but we are not quite able to touch them before they disappear again. Seeing Ghosts is a beautifully introspective reckoning with death: Chow’s mother’s, to be sure, but also the more symbolic death that happens to her family after her mother succumbs to cancer. Because Chow is only 13 when her mother dies, immediately she worries she will forget exactly who her mother was. Indeed, heartbreakingly, she is not allowed in the hospital room when it is clear her mother will not make it; her uncle ignores her pleas and shoos her into the hall. This act produces no small amount of resentment, and one feels its remnants in the book as Chow reconstructs everything she knew about her mother, sometimes addressing her directly and at others employing traditional first-person narration. This technique is a delicate act of excavation, and it succeeds marvellously in creating a lasting sense of immediacy throughout the memoir. When she speaks to her mother, she writes into the void obviously left by her absence, but she also conjures the ghosts left behind as a result: her strained relationship with her father, the growing distance she feels from her Chinese heritage and the implications for her own desires to start a family. But that is not all Chow offers us in this capacious project. The book is also a personal history of her family’s immigration from Hong Kong to the United States, a portrait filled with anecdotes and photographs that pepper our engagement with a family who set out to find their part of the American dream. Beginning with her grandparents, who leave China for Hong Kong and Cuba, to her parents, who leave Hong Kong and eventually end up in Connecticut, Chow unfurls a familiar story of immigrants leaving the place of their birth in search of a better life. It is no surprise that what her parents expect is not at all what actually happens. They open a Chinese restaurant that fails; her father’s MIT degree yields no job and he squanders money buying property that never produces any profit; her mother eventually works for an insurance company that won’t even cover the costs of necessary examinations; and she and her older sisters navigate the challenges of being Chinese girls in a place that does not tolerate difference. Though her mother jokes long before she is suddenly sick that when she dies she wants to be stuffed and kept in Chow’s apartment so she can watch her all the time, it is her mother’s figuratively taxidermic self with which Chow grapples throughout the book. Even when, years after her mother has died, she accompanies her father on a trip to Cuba to try to recover his father’s remains, she is still looking for her mother. ‘Make them beautiful’: 3D printing helps morticians restore dignity in death In her father’s frustrating silence and eventual neglect of her childhood home; in the premature death of the brother she never knew; in the development of her adult self in college – she still looks for what, if anything, could have kept everything together. Is there anyone to blame for her mother’s death? Was she the best daughter she could have been? And, no longer struggling to provide an American life for her family, is her mother finally satisfied?