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Ship of Fates

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In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco's Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco's Chinese immigrant co In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco's Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco's Chinese immigrant community, Ship of Fates is a coming-of-age fairy tale that stretches across generations.


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In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco's Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco's Chinese immigrant co In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco's Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco's Chinese immigrant community, Ship of Fates is a coming-of-age fairy tale that stretches across generations.

41 review for Ship of Fates

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lawrence

    Review to come. Really enjoyed learning a bit about a historical time that I was not very familiar with. I did a lot of Googling after I finished the book. Review for the Library Journal: DEBUT In this slim first novel, Chung crafts a dark, original fairy tale about fate, consequences, and the origins of California's gold. An unnamed narrator in an unidentified time begins the story, visiting an abandoned lighthouse in San Francisco. The heavy door is answered by an age-defying Chinese woman, who Review to come. Really enjoyed learning a bit about a historical time that I was not very familiar with. I did a lot of Googling after I finished the book. Review for the Library Journal: DEBUT In this slim first novel, Chung crafts a dark, original fairy tale about fate, consequences, and the origins of California's gold. An unnamed narrator in an unidentified time begins the story, visiting an abandoned lighthouse in San Francisco. The heavy door is answered by an age-defying Chinese woman, who serves tea and starts spinning stories. She begins in 1000 BCE China with teenage Mei, promised in marriage to a stranger. Instead, she steals his riches, flees to San Francisco, and flings the gold into area rivers. She changed her fate, but at great cost. Mei is now cursed to live until she reclaims all the gold. The Gold Rush arrives before she finishes, and her desperation grows. Spanning generations, focusing largely on Chinese women in and around San Francisco's Barbary Coast, the story explores fate, the oppression women faced, and how Mei's progressively riskier acts, including attempts to sacrifice other women to save herself, affect those around her. VERDICT Speaking to the difficulties that faced women, particularly immigrants in the 1800s, this is a powerful if bleak look at the nature of California's Barbary Coast. Recommended for fans of unique historical fiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Happy Release Day! This is a atmospheric novel that will transport you through history with a bit of magic. Read it now!

  3. 5 out of 5

    An

    Ship of Fates is an original fairy tale that combines Eastern and Western folklore with the Chinese-American immigrant experience. As someone who comes from an Asian background, I found it refreshing to see a historical fiction that focuses on Asian-Americans without the stereotypical "exotic" mystique of the Far East. The author openly acknowledges the discrimination that early Chinese immigrants encountered (and still continue to) in America. Aside from overt racism like "Orientals" and "China Ship of Fates is an original fairy tale that combines Eastern and Western folklore with the Chinese-American immigrant experience. As someone who comes from an Asian background, I found it refreshing to see a historical fiction that focuses on Asian-Americans without the stereotypical "exotic" mystique of the Far East. The author openly acknowledges the discrimination that early Chinese immigrants encountered (and still continue to) in America. Aside from overt racism like "Orientals" and "Chinaman," the characters in Ship of Fates experience daily microaggressions that challenge their very identity: "His name was Wayne. Actually his name was Huang. Huang Jin Bo. He and his bride came from China, from Guangzhou, on a boat, and all the way he'd practiced saying in English: my name is Huang Jin Bo. He'd said it perfectly. But the man at the pier wrote down in his book, Wayne Jimbo. Now that was his name. That's how things were for the Chinese." As it turns out, identity is a central theme along with personal responsibility. Caitlin Chung takes the Confucian concept of duty and applies it to her re-imagined Promethean tale of Mei, an immortal lighthouse keeper who is forced to do penance for a crime committed centuries ago. Mei becomes an agent of change as she manipulates the other characters to achieve her own ends and win back her freedom. When it comes to historical fiction, there is a fine balance to making sure that female characters have agency during a time period when women were afforded few rights. This is where I feel Chung's writing falters slightly. Mei and the other women feel anachronistic, as if they were 21st century people displaced in 1800's California. Some of the behavior and language (e.g. "pissed off") do not seem particularly authentic to the era and undermine the verisimilitude of the story. Despite this, I find Chung's writing to be lyrical and filled with beautifully vivid descriptions. Ship of Fates may be Chung's debut novel, but she writes like a seasoned author. Overall, I enjoyed this novella and recommend it to fans of Angela Carter, Chinese mythology, and magical realism. Many thanks to Lanternfish Press for sending me an advance reading copy. "They abandoned ship, eager to find their fortunes, and were never seen again. All except for one lonely sailor. He watched the last of his fellows set off across the beach, out of the lighthouse's shadow and into the sun. He took in the thin fog, the way it smelled like the tide, and he felt at home. Out at sea, there are no smells--not of the human work, not of reassurance. For the first time in many months, he could think in other colors besides blue." Full disclosure: I was gifted a copy of the book, and my review is based on an uncorrected proof. Ship of Fates is currently available in bookstores.

  4. 5 out of 5

    L.

    A strange, beautiful, and fantastical tale-within-a-tale set during the Gold Rush on San Francisco's Barbary Coast. Ship of Fates is a magical realist immigrant story about an immortal woman who is desperate to escape her ancient curse. It is centered largely around various women, the society that enslaves them, and the way they victimize each other in turn. Almost invariably, the appearance of male characters feels jarring and intrusive to the narrative - the lighthouse that imprisons Mei is re A strange, beautiful, and fantastical tale-within-a-tale set during the Gold Rush on San Francisco's Barbary Coast. Ship of Fates is a magical realist immigrant story about an immortal woman who is desperate to escape her ancient curse. It is centered largely around various women, the society that enslaves them, and the way they victimize each other in turn. Almost invariably, the appearance of male characters feels jarring and intrusive to the narrative - the lighthouse that imprisons Mei is repetitiously described as phallic. This is hardly a hopeful story but the tale is doled out with a wry, frank, cynical humor. The brief moments of hope and connection between characters dissipate as quickly and tenuously as they appear, but these moments of happiness are no less beautiful for being ephemeral. This gorgeously written story that will linger with me for some time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bee

    A complicated, short novel that I think I need to discuss with someone to get a full sense of. Full of the gold rush & Barbary Coast, with Rapunzel elements and maybe hints of Kaguya? It's a history that I wish I had better context for, which is a personal statement that I think of as a rousing endorsement. A complicated, short novel that I think I need to discuss with someone to get a full sense of. Full of the gold rush & Barbary Coast, with Rapunzel elements and maybe hints of Kaguya? It's a history that I wish I had better context for, which is a personal statement that I think of as a rousing endorsement.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    The art of storytelling features an engrossing tale and pitch-perfect delivery; Caitlin Chung excels at both in her debut, Ship of Fates. A young woman listens as Mei, an ancient lighthouse keeper, combines the legend of "Maker of Gold Mountain" with her tragic life story. The young woman hears "these stories--the ones about her, about this place, and about the old place, too." The legend begins in China in 1000 BC, where Mei, a beautiful woman betrothed to a foreigner, steals her dowry gold and The art of storytelling features an engrossing tale and pitch-perfect delivery; Caitlin Chung excels at both in her debut, Ship of Fates. A young woman listens as Mei, an ancient lighthouse keeper, combines the legend of "Maker of Gold Mountain" with her tragic life story. The young woman hears "these stories--the ones about her, about this place, and about the old place, too." The legend begins in China in 1000 BC, where Mei, a beautiful woman betrothed to a foreigner, steals her dowry gold and rides a whale across the sea to a rocky coast with a welcoming bay. There she throws the gold into rivers and hills "where no gold was before, nor was ever meant to be." Although she's free, she's also cursed. She must keep fires going, "a mirror for the feral hope of her search" until she recovers every nugget she stole. In 1849, Mei still lives in San Francisco, "a city stained yellow--yellow in the flowers and gold in the waters." She's collected an unimaginable amount of gold in her lighthouse, but it's still not enough. Desperate to be free, she entraps another young woman, only to see this selfish act backfire. Mei is still "surrounded by an amount of gold as dense and deep as need, as soft as a desperate woman's conviction." Thus Mei, the maker of Gold Mountain, remains in her lighthouse to this day. Desire, deceit and regret come together in this spellbinding mixture of legend and heartbreak. -reviewed for Shelf Awareness 5-26-20

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  8. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  10. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Hayes

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tauno Biltsted

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anca

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kilby

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  16. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Cox

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily Bokelman

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Thomas

  19. 5 out of 5

    Feliza Casano

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kim Davis

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paullette

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Davis

  24. 5 out of 5

    Theodore McCombs

  25. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  26. 4 out of 5

    Georgina Kamsika

  27. 5 out of 5

    Arina✨

  28. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrea: NastyMuchachitaReads

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  32. 4 out of 5

    Jannon

  33. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

  34. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Moore

  35. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Zimmer

  36. 5 out of 5

    Felicia Owens

  37. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  38. 5 out of 5

    jenni

  39. 5 out of 5

    Lily

  40. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

  41. 4 out of 5

    Anna Richey

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