As elegant are the ways in which the past reclaims the present. Ryan's subtle use of water and ghosts as intertwined motifs of the ancestral is drawn from Chinese myths and deftly crafted, while her vignettes from prior years are seamlessly placed. The novel pulses, with the past continually surging against the present until the present yields. In Water Ghosts, Ryan has distinguished herself as a writer to watch. —Robert Braile, Boston Globe

Ryan explores love, desire, loss, and betrayal as she combines history and myth in lyrical prose that is both delicate and sensuous.... Accomplished and affecting. —Booklist

A dreamlike haze shimmers over Ryan's debut.... Her elegant female protagonists manage to exercise their own agency even when they're hemmed in by life in Locke. —Publishers Weekly

Water Ghosts is, simply, exquisite writing—"the startled egrets stretch their wings and lift up like incandescent sheets being shaken to dry"—ethereal and rough, mysterious and earthy. This is a book to seek out and to treasure. —Marilyn Dahl, Shelf-Awareness

Vivid and surreal imagery of water, fire and air parallels the changing world of Chinese immigrants trying to forge a new world that entices and frightens them by turn. Ryan's evocative descriptions are poetic, elucidating how these proud, strong men and women see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and dream America. A beautiful first novel. —The Historical Novels Review

....a curiously distinctive read. —The San Francisco Chronicle

This is potent, deeply felt, magical writing…. Don’t miss this book. —Gary Snyder

A beautiful debut, Water Ghosts opens up a page in history that sometimes is forgotten by both cultures that once coexisted in Locke, a Sacramento Chinese farming town. By mapping out the familiar and the strange territories of human passion and retelling the old myths, Shawna Yang Ryan tells a story that, in the end, is about how America was truly made. —Yiyun Li, author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Water Ghosts is an auspicious debut that not only entertains, but opens our eyes to a rich, poignant piece of Chinese-American history. —Gail Tsukiyama, author of Dreaming Water

Artfully woven, exquisitely modulated, walking a master's line between ancient Chinese myth and the grit of immigrant life in the Sacramento Delta, Water Ghosts tells the unforgettable story of a town brought to its knees by loneliness and longing. Complicated, compassionate, haunting, Shawna Yang Ryan's novel feels more like tapestry than words on paper, her prose less like sentences, and more like song. —Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness

Shawna Ryan's Water Ghosts is a multi-layered marvel of a book. The prose is a delight, the characters fascinating, the story richly imagined and heart-rending. This first novel of grace and substance presages a notable literary career for Shawna Ryan. —John Lescroart, author of The Hunt Club

Water Ghosts is breathtakingly haunting. I've ingested the characters and will carry them with me…. A completely moving work worth reading, without a doubt. If you have a to-be-read list, this one must be placed at the top. —Carp(e) Libris

Shawna Yang Ryan writes with even frightening intimacy about: preachers, bootleggers, prostitutes, ghosts, and an utterly convincing soothsaying madame. Every word she writes about their storied, haunted, tule-fogbanked Sacramento River town rings absolutely true. Savor Water Ghosts, this brilliant incarnation of the California novel, and you'll be amply, richly rewarded. Just to read it will ruin you for Steinbeck. —John Beckman, author of The Winter Zoo

Water Ghosts is beautifully written, dreamy and evocative. The book imagines a town in which life is haunted by desire and pain; where premonitions of future despair are tenuously kept at bay by gin, sex, and occasionally a tenderness that looks something like love. I don't know whether the novel is true to what life was like in Locke, but it draws very effectively on historical Chinese beliefs about the power and dangers of sexual attraction. —Beverly Bossler, author of Powerful Relations: Kinship, Status, and the State in Sung China (960-1279)

Shawna Yang Ryan's novel casts the heyday of a misty American river town, once full of Chinese bachelors, in a feminine light. Hers is a sensuous and sinewy swirl of men missing women, and women embracing men. She unwinds tales of shame and longing among the dollar-a-day men from China— the pear pickers and asparagus pullers with "aching wrists" and "crooked fingers." All the while, their consorts race between loving and loathing, heat and regret, myth and destiny, abandonment and sadness, in a quest to search out meaning 'on the other side of the fog.' Her lyrical prose meanders lightly in an appealing weave of the gossipy and the ghostly. Ryan's vivid imaginings offer a moving and memorable complement to the lives of the young men who came from China nearly a century ago with their transpacific dreams. After decades of toil in the Sacramento delta, many of them found separation, yellowed walls and then death, alone. —Todd Carrell, Writer/Producer of "American Chinatown"

In Shawna Yang Ryan's finely written first novel, interior and exterior voices conflict, merge, and diverge again, creating a pattern of flight and contact that mirror the strange socialtity that is Locke in 1928, a community of immigrants and exiles. We are given not only history but also history's imprint on private psyches. The conflation between private and public memory, the paradoxes of desire, and the uneven dynamics of power at the intersection of racial and sexual difference all contribute to make the characters of Water Ghosts at once haunting and seductive. —Anne Anlin Cheng, author of The Melancholy of Race

Ryan writes with the spare and disciplined prose of the committed artist, at once conjuring and compressing, urging us to feel what she feels and yet trusting us get there as quickly. Water Ghosts is a terrific and promising performance. —Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside, A Surfer's Year on the California

Water Ghosts cloaks the muscular brutality of the treatment of early Asians in America in a style reminiscent of classic Chinese brush painting. Passion between a preacher's daughter and a prostitute, the reconciliation of a husband and wife apart ten years, a violent chain of separations and reunions, and a final scene that engraves lost Chinese wife Ming Wai's "triumph"—this is the stuff born of an exotic Sacramento Delta locale that is still of a distant past. This is a very impressive debut, and Shawna Yang Ryan has bright future written all over her. Remember her name—you'll be seeing it often over the next few decades. —Jack Hicks, co-editor of The Literature of California

Rich in sensuous detail, and rich also in interwoven imagery of fire and water, of destruction and creation, Shawna Yang Ryan's impressive debut novel Water Ghosts, gives voice both to the community and to the individuals who make up the small Sacramento River delta town where Chinese immigrants, Chinese-Americans and white Americans intermingled and sometimes intermarried. The novel seems modest in its geographical scope and in its cast of characters, but it's actually quite audacious in the way it experiments with its genres—simultaneously a history, an historical fiction, a realistic portrayal, an example of magical realism, and a ghost story. It also happens to be a flat-out fine read! —Ron Loewinsohn, author of Magnetic Fields

Shawna Yang Ryan is a gifted writer who has a great feeling for the language and its natural lyrical possibilities. She is a writer who deserves to be taken seriously. —Clarence Major

Memory, mystery and myth fuse in this well-spun tale of real life in an Old Chinese town on the Sacramento River Delta. If you've never seen Locke, you'll want to visit once you've read Shawna Yang Ryan's sumptuous first novel. Water Ghosts mingles concrete descriptions of the everyday with highly charged eroticism and mysterious yet plausible renderings of the interior lives of displaced sojourners in faraway Gold Mountain. This is a real trip: an imagining in fiction of an historical experience recoverable perhaps in no other way. —Forrest G. Robinson, author of The Cambridge Companion to Mark Twain

Like the murky waters of the surrounding Delta, a hunger for life surges and recedes across Locke: labyrinth and gated memory palace of dream and desire at the epicenter of the Chinese-American experience. —Kevin Starr, Professor of History, University of Southern California

In this lyrical debut novel, Shawna Yang Ryan evokes the hard labor, deep losses, and loving redemptions of Chinese immigrants, those who loved them, and California itself. A startling, rich, and remarkable work that echoes long after the book is closed. —Louis S. Warren, author of Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show

This book captures a unique moment in California history, when boats, 'each represent[ing] a Delta produce,' go out on the Sacramento River to reenact an ancient Chinese myth. But it's much more than a historical chronicle; it's a beautifully written first novel, of haunting relationships and haunted inner lives. —Alan Williamson, author of Almost a Girl: Male Writers and Female Identification