Water Ghosts ($8.83), a novel from Berkeley-based Shawna Yang Ryan, is set in the wake of the Immigration Act of 1924, legislation that barred many Chinese women from joining husbands who had immigrated to America in search of work. The absence of women defines life in Locke, California, a community of bachelors where men outnumber women twenty to one and most of the women are white prostitutes.
For this reason, when a boat bearing three mysterious and bedraggled Chinese women arrives one day out of the fog of the Sacramento Delta, suspicion and rumor spread rapidly among the townspeople of Locke. The women’s appearance is particularly baffling for Richard Fong, the manager of the Lucky Fortune gambling parlor; one of them is Ming Wai, the wife he abandoned in China years earlier.
The novel was a finalist for the 2008 Northern California Book Award. You can read other reviews about the book on GoodReads.