Foxes, trains, elaborate outfits, witty sayings, luck and chance, the last days of an empire. Told in two voices, Yangsze Choo’s The Fox Wife is a fitting follow up to Choo’s previous novels, The Ghost Bride and The Night Tiger.
Set in Manchuria in 1908, The Fox Wife plays with Chinese myths about the fox gods: foxes with the ability to transform themselves into beguiling, beautiful and tormented men and women. Legend has it that these fox gods sometimes live among people, causing trouble through their trickery and slippery relationship to the truth.
Equipped with an extreme sensitivity to the presence of truth, Bao is a detective on a mission to figure out what happened to a woman found frozen to death on the doorstep of a restaurant. His chapters—told from a third-person perspective—enthrall with keen observations about the gods, his own past and the people around him.
Snow is on her own quest to understand the death of her only child. She begins working for a family who has been cursed: Their sons die young. Her first-person chapters are particularly intriguing, with a strong voice and sharp turns of phrase. Who is Snow? And what will her journey allow her to discover?
As the story alternates between Snow’s and Bao’s perspectives, the pull to solve these mysteries builds momentum. The voices are compelling; the secrets are rich. When the two tales begin to overlap and the gaps fill in, the surprise is worth the wait. Layers of meaning accrue, bringing together the past and the present, mythology and personal ambition, actions and reactions, control and fate, into a fascinating tale of foxes, foes and friends.