She Is Haunted

Paige Clark

She Is Haunted
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She Is Haunted

Paige Clark

I know lots of things now that I’m dead. Peter from Apartment Two has a spastic bladder. My former boss Morgan keeps her toenails in a gold jewellery box. My brother and his wife are trying for a baby. I always excuse myself before things get too heated.


I don’t know much about my mother yet. I am waiting for grief to catch her, but she mostly seems ashamed-of her body, of what it made.

A mother cuts her daughter’s hair because her own starts falling out. A woman leaves her boyfriend because he reminds her of a corpse; another undergoes brain surgery to try to live more comfortably in higher temperatures. A widow physically transforms into her husband so that she does not have to grieve.

In She is Haunted, these renditions of the author search for recognition and connection, and, more than anything else, small moments of empathy. But in what world will she move beyond her haunted past and find empathy for herself?

With piercing insights into transnational Asian identity, intergenerational trauma and grief, the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, the inexplicable oddities of female friendship, and the love of a good dog, Paige Clark has crafted an exquisite, moving and sophisticated debut work of fiction.

Full of wit and humour, She is Haunted announces an entrancing new literary voice as contemporary as it is unique.

Review

If you’ve felt stuck in a reading slump of late, stop what you’re doing and pick up a copy of She Is Haunted. The hype for this debut short-story collection from Chinese/American/Australian fiction writer, researcher and teacher Paige Clark is definitely cheeky and confident – the cover of my advanced reading copy displays the words ‘WHO IS PAIGE CLARK?’ in all-caps, front and centre. But the hype is warranted. With She Is Haunted, Clark introduces herself as a playful and inventive voice you don’t want to sleep on, and I’m already hanging out for whatever she writes next.

The 18 stories in this collection gently blend the surreal with the all-too-real. Clark’s protagonists are almost all women: witty, raging and devastatingly relatable. These characters are all navigating the intimacy and messiness of relationships in strange and surprising ways. A mother bargains with God so that she can keep her unborn child. A widow starts to dress as her husband to avoid grieving. A woman clones her ex-boyfriend’s dog to cope with their breakup. Standout stories ‘Lie- in’, ‘In a Room of Chinese Women’ and ‘Cracks’ offer some of the most painfully accurate depictions of both the dynamics between women, and between mothers and daughters, that I’ve read in a long time – the story ‘Cracks’ is also an account of domestic violence that I haven’t been able to shake. Chinese identity is another thread running through Clark’s collection, tying so many stories together in ways that feel truly fresh and insightful.

She Is Haunted is electrically original in both prose style and energy. Fans of inventive fiction such as Elizabeth Tan’s recent Readings Prize-winning Smart Ovens for Lonely People or Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties will find much to admire about She Is Haunted, but this collection will also resonate with anyone drawn to stories of identity and connection, especially female friendships and mother-daughter relationships. An absolute pleasure to read.


Stella Charls works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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