Saturday 7 May 2022

Book Review: The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern by Rita Zoey Chin (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern
Author: Rita Zoey Chin
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: 4 October 2022
Pages: 385
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Born in a carnival trailer, Leah Fern begins her life as the "The Youngest and Very Best Fortuneteller in the World," taking strangers' hands and feeling the depths of their emotions. Her mother Jeannie Starr is a captivating magician, but not always an attentive mother, and when Leah is six, Jeannie upends their carnival life with an unexpected exit. With little fanfare and no explanation, she leaves her daughter at the home of Edward Murphy, a kindly older man with whom Leah shares one fierce wish: that Jeannie Starr will return to them.

After fifteen years as a small-town outcast , Leah decides to end her life on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday. But the intricate death ritual she has devised is interrupted by a surprise knock on her door. Her mysterious neighbor, the curmudgeonly and reclusive art photographer Essie East, has died and left Leah a very strange inheritance. Through a series of letters, Essie will posthumously lead Leah on a journey to nine points on the map, spanning from South Carolina to Canada to the Arctic Circle—a journey that, the first note promises, will reveal the story of Leah's mother.

Driven by a ferocious resurgence of hope, Leah embarks on this bizarre treasure hunt, Essie's ashes in a jeweled urn in the passenger seat of her truck. Along her way, she visits islands, libraries, diners, and defunct ice cream parlors, meeting a charming cast of eccentric characters and immersing herself in wonders of the natural world.

An enchanting novel about the transcendent powers of the imagination, the magic of the threshold between past and present, and the courage it takes to love, The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern explores the unlikely, at times adversarial, and ultimately redemptive relationship between a young woman who has forgotten how to live and a dead woman who summons her to remember.


The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern caught my interest right from the first chapter and held it until the end. It was a delightful story of a young woman's journey to understand her own past, as well as discovering what happened to the mother who suddenly disappeared from her life. Leah was an engaging character I could really get behind as a reader, and I enjoyed following her travels and the gentle unravelling of her tale. The magical realism elements blended well with the story, and it was a pleasure to pick it up each night and continue the adventure. It gets a solid 4.5 stars from me. Recommended if you like stories that cross between life drama and mystery with a hint of magical realism. I would certainly read more from this author in the future.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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