This long awaited novel from the brilliant HS Norup does not disappoint. It couldn't be more different in setting from The Missing Barbegazi- from the cold mountains to the heat of Singapore- The Hungry Ghost is a sensory delight. The evocative setting is almost a character itself and all my senses were engaged throughout the reading of this. I could smell the incense and offerings being burned, taste the new foods of Singapore, could see the thriving markets of sellers, hear their shouts as they tempt buyers and could feel the humidity of Singapore on my skin. (Having travelled there I used my own memories as well).
Freja has moved from Denmark to Singapore to live with her father and his new family. She will be staying for a year to give her mother space and time to heal- we only piece together this family mystery as Freja solves one for a lost ghost. Having arrived during the Hungry Ghost Festival, a month long event where ghosts are fed and prepared for the after life, Freja discovers a ghost in her garden. Following the ghost and communicating using morse code, Freja abandons all else in order to solve the secret and to help set the ghost free.
As a Scout, Freja knows to always be prepared so she carries her swiss army knife, a compass and map with her. She uses her phone to pinpoint locations in the dense jungle surrounding a mass cemetery where the ghost is hiding.
What follows is an intense study of family history and searches for proof of name and identity , both for the ghost and for Freja who is struggling to fit into her new family. Missing her mother and feeling a fierce loyalty to her ensures that Freja actively seeks to dislike her step mother. She isn't bonding with her twin step brothers and with Dad away on business, she is feeling as lost as her ghost.
This is a wonderful journey for Freja and as the reader you feel deeply connected to her story. From learning cultural references and survival skills to understanding the dynamics of family life, there is so much to take from this beautiful story. With the topic of grief sensitively dealt with, Freja and her father share secrets and learn to trust and overcome their grief.
An intense and fascinating story, one I would happily read again and again.