Friday, September 8, 2017

The Last Cheng Beng Gift, by Jaymee Goh

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(Fantasy) It pleases Mrs. Lim that her children keep sending her gifts even ten years after her death, but her daughter’s gifts aren’t always appropriate. (3,010 words; Time: 10m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 88, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: We know from the start that Mrs. Lim has been in the afterlife for a long time. That tells us that she’s got some unfinished business to attend to. By the end, we know that she needed to reconcile with her daughter before she could move on.

Con: Mrs. Lim comes across as an unpleasant person who inflicted life-long pain on her daughter. It’s not satisfying to see her at peace without knowing whether her daughter found peace too.

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5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Although it was a fairly slight story, I found this quite moving. I like to think her visit to her daughter may have left the daughter with some ghostly feeling, but if not then it's unfortunately the way that some lessons are learnt too late.

    1. I guess I just wanted to feel that the person actually deserved a happy ending.

  2. The ending shows that Mrs. Lim finally gets that trying to force her idea of what makes someone happy (good marriage, social standing, wealth) on her daughter actually made her unhappy. She sees that her daughter is happy in her own way even if Mrs. Lim still can't understand why. The daughter will no longer feel her mother's disapproval haunting her. Finally allowing her daughter to just be happy is what earns Mrs. Lim the opportunity to move on.

    1. So you think Hong Yin will feel differently from here on? I just reread the ending, and I don't think I see that there. There is the line where it says "Mrs. Lim had a moment of self-righteous satisfaction that even in death, she could make Hong Yin feel her displeasure," but I took that to mean it was the first time she'd done that.

      Maybe I'm asking too much from the story. It's really about Mrs. Lim, not Hong Yin. Mrs. Lim has finally let go, and now she can find peace. What Hong Yin does is up to her.

    2. I guess I'd like to think Hong Yin will sense that her mom's moved on. Yeah, it was the only time she went back because she seemed a little scandalized when her friend first suggested she should. But even if her friends had talked her into staying somehow, she wouldn't have done it again.

      I got the feeling that Hong Yin had gotten past her mom's disapproval previously by the fact that she still sent gifts but they weren't the expected traditional ones. And she's obviously content in her situation when Mrs. Lim returns. She gets upset at the haunting, but recovers and immediately begins on the next Cheng Beng gift. The duck pond is also something that would have made Mrs. Lim happy in life, but her husband disapproved because of feng shui. I think that's what really brings it home for her.