In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family whose members blamed their woes on ghosts and demons when in fact they should have been on anti-psychotic meds.
Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the “woo-woo”—Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo’s sinister effects; at the age of six, she found herself living in the food court of her suburban mall, which her mother saw as a safe haven because they could hide there from dead people, and on a camping trip, her mother tried to light Lindsay’s foot on fire to rid her of the woo-woo.
The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, when her aunt, suffering from a psychotic breakdown, holds the city of Vancouver hostage for eight hours when she threatens to jump off a bridge. And when Lindsay herself starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family.
On one hand a witty and touching memoir about the Asian immigrant experience, and on the other a harrowing and honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness, The Woo-Woo is a gut-wrenching and beguiling manual for surviving family, and oneself.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Schizophrenia, an eight-hour suicide standoff, and being ostracized from your Chinese Canadian community do not sound like the stuff of a madcap comedic memoir, but somehow Lindsay Wong pulls it off. The Vancouver native applies her whip-smart gallows humour to every topic, including her experiences with childhood obesity, her meth-afflicted suburban neighbourhood, and her family’s obsession with Chinese ghosts—as well as their refusal to confront mental illness. Wong has a flair for vivid scene-setting and an easy way with dialogue, but it’s the fierce confidence of her debut that really stands out. The Woo-Woo dives fearlessly into choppy emotional waters and emerges gleaming.