BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Whisper by Chang Yu-Ko, translated by Roddy Flagg [in Booklist]

Once upon a time, Wu Shih-sheng had a happy home with his wife and daughter. But then his daughter ran away and he fell heavily into debt after an accident; lost their home; took to sporadically driving a taxi; forced his wife, Kuo Hsiang-ying, into never-ending menial work; and devolved into a gambling drunk. And then the voices start.

What begins as seemingly faraway songs hones into threats of impending death – not only Hsiang-ying’s but also their missing daughter’s. Escape proves virtually impossible.

The voice takes Hsiang-ying, but it’s hardly satisfied, finally pushing Shih-sheng out of his stupor. Priestess black magic, temple arson, national-park trespassing – all become part of Shih-sheng’s plan to identify the voice. Meanwhile, his assigned social worker’s research getaway and his sister-in-law’s domestic tribulations are about to collide with his increasingly desperate quest to stay alive.

Amid the growing corpse count (um, including desiccated infants!), Taiwanese horror master Chang Yu-Ko, making an Anglophone debut energetically translated by Roddy Flagg, intertwines terrifying traditional folklore and actual ongoing abuse of Indigenous populations and other consequences of Japanese colonialism to make readers’ skin crawl.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, September 1, 2021

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018 (Taiwan), 2021 (United States)


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