This is the debut novel from Emily X.R. Pan, a New York-based artist and magazine publisher. She was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan, China.
Grief and mourning* fill the pages of this novel as do love and longing. Our main character, Leigh Chen Sanders, is a creative and sensitive 15-year-old who loses her mother to depression* and, finally, suicide*. How she copes with the events, her actions, her guilt and her anger are the focus of this novel.
The truly strong points of the novel are how it deals with the aftermath* of a suicide and how it shows a teen trying to cope with the spiraling depression of a parent. There is cruelty, anger and shame. The author does not shy away from any of it.
The book hovers on the edge of magical realism. Sanders is convinced* that her mother has turned into a big red bird.
Sanders, who is half-Asian and half-Caucasian, then travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother in the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. As she grieves, she must try to accept the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush*, Axel, her mother took her own life.(SD-Agencies)