“What Passes Over” by Celeste Ng is a good story. In it, a teenage girl’s father has died of a heart attack and her mother is struggling to cope with the loss. Even though the family is not Chinese, the mother follows the Asian custom of burning replicas of money and material goods to furnish the absent loved-one’s after life. The girl is afraid the mother is going nuts, but when she seeks help from the counselor at school the advice seems similar. In time the mother seems to be doing better—she goes back to work, she stops burning Monopoly money—but the daughter is struggling. The story seems to be saying, pretty simplistically, that time heels loss. The story is told in the present tense, with flashbacks to the actual death of the father told in simple past. I wonder if the story wouldn’t be stronger if the present tense had not been used, since the action in the foreground of the story doesn’t seem to really need the immediacy that present tense should provide.
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