Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. She travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, Leigh is determined to find her mother, the bird.
In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
This is truly an elegantly poignant read filled with just as much realistic emotion as it is magical realism. Readers are in for a real treat with Pan's debut novel. Having myself recently experienced grief upon losing multiple loved ones, I found this narrative not only mesmerizing as well as haunting but also cathartic and hopeful. Perhaps this final quote sums up the novel's prose and experience best:
What is memory? It's not something you can physically hold, or see, or taste. It's just nerve impulses jumping between neurons. Sometimes it's a matter of choice. Other times it's self-preservation, or protection [...] Because the purpose of memory, I would argue, is to remind us how to live" (p. 464).
This is a beautiful book. Have your tissues handy.