As someone who has not read a lot of horror or gothic horror fiction before and instead finds themselves wandering Young Adult Romance and Poetry sections, She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran was everything I could have asked for and more.
Tran does well in swallowing the reader into the book: an eerie and mythic adjacent setting and creating space for mystery, curiosity, and falling in love with very real and tangible characters. Each chapter digests you as a reader the more you fall into Tran’s authentic world-building and melt into her wonderful, viscerally felt writing style. From using different point of view inserts to shake up the storyline written in a hybridized fiction/poetry/creative non-fiction form, Tran plays around in her writing to get more than just the story across— but the feelings as well.
More than just a book, the story becomes a reflection of so much more than the written word. Through love, loss, feeling enough and not, intrusive thoughts, and terrifying realities, Tran has created a poignant and touching story of not just a fictional— but very real haunting.
The themes of colonial ghosts and the fallouts of love (when it fails, when it can’t begin, when it’s gone), all trace themselves throughout this living, breathing book. Each character is so wonderfully captured that you can’t help but feel each twist and turn, each emotion, as your own.
Tran even manages to hit the larger than ourselves emotions such as love, unease, and so much more. What does it mean to be haunted anyway? To be “a haunting”? Tran leans into the uncanny and captures the difficult to pin core emotions that most can only feel— not describe.
Not only would I recommend this book to anyone in search of a good representation of Vietnamese, LGBT+, coming of age, or gothic horror, but instead to anyone who is looking for an engulfing read to take you away from the world only to return you with subtle new outlooks on reality. You may start as someone without much knowledge of the horrific or the uncanny, or maybe even someone who ropes themselves into romance rather than mythic realism, either way: you’ll end up with a craving— a gaping hunger that may never satiate, for more and more [of Tran’s writing, of the truth, of the visceral emotion she introduces you to].
This book should not just be on your reading list, but should be your next read. No matter who you are, I am sure that She is a Haunting will have something for you to latch onto and not want to let go.
This story will swallow you whole and you will not want to be spit out. Easy to read, enjoyable to delve into, and a story you will never want to put down, even when you reach the last word.