WHITE GHOST GIRLS

Alice Greenway

In Alice Greenway’s exquisite gem of a novel, two girls tumble into their teenage years against the extraordinary backdrop of a Hong Kong dealing with the threat of communist China bubbling at its borders and the carnage in Vietnam that calls their father back time and again, like a moth to a flame. This astonishing literary debut is a tale of sacrifice and solidarity that gleams with the kind of intense, complicated love that only exists between sisters. In this novel based on historical fact, Jim Fergus takes readers on a journey of magnificent sweep and heartbreaking consequence peopled with unforgettable characters.

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In Alice Greenway’s exquisite gem of a novel, two girls tumble into their teenage years against the extraordinary backdrop of a Hong Kong dealing with the threat of communist China bubbling at its borders and the carnage in Vietnam that calls their father back time and again, like a moth to a flame. This astonishing literary debut is a tale of sacrifice and solidarity that gleams with the kind of intense, complicated love that only exists between sisters. In this novel based on historical fact, Jim Fergus takes readers on a journey of magnificent sweep and heartbreaking consequence peopled with unforgettable characters. With prose so vivid that the road dust prac­tically rises off the page, The Wild Girl is an epic novel filled with drama, peril, and romance, told by a master.

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  • Black Cat
  • Paperback
  • February 2006
  • 176 Pages
  • 9780802170187

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About Alice Greenway

Alice Greenway lived the itinerant life of a foreign correspondent’s child. She grew up in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Jerusalem, as well as in the United States. After graduating from Yale University in 1986, she returned to work in Hong Kong for two years. This is her first novel.

Praise

“White Ghost Girls is so rich with detail and so charged with the colors and flavors of Hong Kong in the shadows of the Vietnam War that it’s not only a great read, it’s an olfactory experience. Alice Greenway captures the innocence of her young narrator with a voice that echoes with hard-earned wisdom, heartbreak, and love for a time and place.” —Meghan Daum, author of The Quality of Life Report and My Misspent Youth

Discussion Questions

In what ways does the narrator see herself and her sister as “cast­aways” and “secret sisters, shipwrecked sisters, and Vietcong sisters”?

How are Kate and Frankie different, physically and temperamentally? How do these differences influence their relationships with their parents?

. “Hong Kong would be safer than Saigon; an old-fashioned British enclave, he called it. That was before the trouble started this summer.” What is ironic about their parents’ efforts to keep the girls safe from the horrors of Vietnam? Why are Kate and Frankie obsessed with war games and following the events in Vietnam?

What is the picture of the war in Vietnam as it emerges in the book?

How is Marianne, the mother, portrayed? Are there multiple facets in her daughters’ perceptions of her? How does her art reflect her efforts to keep order and civility in her family’s life?

The father, too, is a complex person. Is he a good father? Do you as a reader empathize with him as the book goes on?

What is the role of Ah Bing? As Amah is she an alternative mother fig­ure for them? What kinds of worlds does she open?

How does Ah Bing’s temple on Lantau Island compare to the English church, St. John’s? What does the whole temple world mean to Ah Bing?

As Kate tries to understand her family and her world, is she a reliable narrator?

One of the big differences between Kate and Frankie is their attitude toward sex. Discuss this difference. What are Ah Bing’s ideas on the subject?

Since the father is a photographer, is it odd that there are almost no photographs of his daughters? Why not?

On his rare trips home the father’s bedtime stories as he lies on his back on the floor are of Mao, Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, Genghis Khan and Marco Polo. Is this his effort to share his world of journalism and storytelling?

How do you explain the last chapter, which stands as an epilogue writ­ten many years later? Is it Kate’s epilogue only? “After all these years, this is all I want: a wooden stool, a bowl of rice, an army canteen, a secret comrade, the whooping cry of