She is a Haunting is a book I adored the more I read it. This mystery story is equal parts horror, intergenerational family story, all rooted in the colonial history. Doesn’t that sound right up my alley? Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
When Jade Nguyen arrives in Vietnam for a visit with her estranged father, she has one goal: survive five weeks pretending to be a happy family in the French colonial house Ba is restoring. She’s always lied to fit in, so if she’s straight enough, Vietnamese enough, American enough, she can get out with the college money he promised.
But the house has other plans. Night after night, Jade wakes up paralyzed. The walls exude a thrumming sound, while bugs leave their legs and feelers in places they don’t belong. She finds curious traces of her ancestors in the gardens they once tended. And at night Jade can’t ignore the ghost of the beautiful bride who leaves her cryptic warnings: Don’t eat.
Neither Ba nor her sweet sister Lily believe that there is anything strange happening. With help from a delinquent girl, Jade will prove this house—the home her family has always wanted—will not rest until it destroys them. Maybe, this time, she can keep her family together. As she roots out the house’s rot, she must also face the truth of who she is and who she must become to save them all.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
She is Haunting was thrilling from the start. With a distinct ominous sense, this book allows the creepiness, the supernatural, to slowly rise. Beginning with the deal Jade makes to unlock her dreams, we already know her family is complex. Having traveled to Vietnam to secure the finances she needs, we can already sense that there are secrets. Destructive ones that just might tear the house down.
I was immediately drawn to Jade. How she’s so protective of her sister, afraid of coming out to her father, and forced to confront the past settling in the walls. Her feelings as a diaspora child – coming back to Vietnam and feeling this disconnect – were an instant reason I empathized with her. This feeling where things are supposed to feel familiar, languages fluid on our tongue, but the reality is vastly more difficult. And my feelings for Jade only grew. She is a Haunting is one of those unique books which manages to scare you, move your heart, and incite rage.
As Jade navigates her own feelings with her family, and history of Vietnam, the story deepens. We witness her learn about the history of colonialism, the injustices her own relatives observed, and how it has impacted her ‘home’. So She is a Haunting examines both identity, belonging, and home. Of reconciling what happened, and the ways in which our lives have diverged. It’s a story about the flames of anger and injustice. About how colonizers always make the history books and those who lived there rarely do.
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She is a Haunting is a haunting book. A book about family – those who have made mistakes and hurt us, but who might surprise us – and homes which can feel like echoes. I am so glad I took a chance on this horror mystery which isn’t my normal genre, but this one is a gem! Find She is a Haunting on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org, & The Book Depository.