Rita Zoey Chin
The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern

  • 2022
  • Melville House
  • ISBN: 9781612199863


  • Paperback, Digital
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The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern

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At the age of six, when Leah Fern becomes "The Youngest and Very Best Fortuneteller in the World," she discovers two things: First, she can feel the emotions of the people who enter her tent at the Blazing Calyx Carnival; second, what everyone wants to know is simple: are they loved? And the answer that comes to her again and again is always yes, you are loved. That is, until her mother Jeannie Starr, magician extraordinaire and dazzling shapeshifter, pulls her biggest vanishing act yet when she abandons her into the care of a stranger.

Edward Murphy, the kind, older man who raises Leah, watches her change from beloved oracle to small-town outcast who retreats into a world of imaginary birds and zoological textbooks. An unlikely pair, they find a bond in sharing one fierce wish: that Jeannie Starr will return to them. Fifteen years later, after no sign of her mother, Leah decides to end her life on her twenty-first birthday. But in the midst of an elaborate death ritual, she is interrupted by a knock on her door. Her neighbor, the curmudgeonly and reclusive art photographer Essie East, has died, and left Leah a very strange inheritance. Through a series of letters sent via general delivery, Essie posthumously leads Leah on a journey that will unspool geographically in the shape of a golden spiral and—as the first letter promises—will lead Leah to the story of her mother's mysterious life and disappearance.

Fueled by her hunger for the truth and a ferocious resurgence of hope, Leah embarks on an unconventional treasure hunt, with Essie's ashes riding shotgun in her truck in a bejeweled urn. From Madeline Island to an island in the Arctic Circle, Leah meets a charming cast of eccentric characters with whom she finds a budding kinship, while each letter from Essie tells more of the story—a tale that spans generations of powerful women, one that zooms in on Essie’s own transformation in 1977, when she dabbled in witchcraft and fell in love with the woman who would change her life—and ultimately reveals how Essie's story and Jeannie's story intertwine.

Weaving together many strands of history, magic, and human longing, Rita Zoey Chin's debut novel is an impassioned, shimmering, and often hilarious coming of age story about the transcendent power of the imagination and the courage required to stand fast in the face of pain, and choose love.

Praise for The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern

"The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is a bittersweet and achingly tender coming of age novel. Like V. E. Schwab and Audrey Niffenegger, Rita Zoey Chin is an expert guide to that territory in which magic, loss, and possibility change not only the characters but the reader, too." Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

"A book that captures such tenderness and longing, and one where the rhythm and enchantment of every sentence lures a reader into joining Leah's search, with plenty of rewards along the way." Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

"To read The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is to be transported into a world so luminescent and full of wonder, so infused with sorrow and hope and joy and magic, that I wish I could send a copy to everyone on Earth. Rita Zoey Chin's captivating debut novel is the best kind of enchantment—transformative and moving and full of untold delights." Catherine Chung, author of The Tenth Muse

"I was enchanted by this exquisitely written book and the fierce and lovable Leah Fern. Suffused with magic and longing, the novel casts its own tender and solitary light, as if etched on a frozen lake under a full moon." Sharon Guskin, author of The Forgetting Time

"Exquisitely beautiful and eerily wise. Deeply philosophical yet full of magic . . . a work of literary excellence." Donna Meredith, Southern Literary Review

"A struggling empath fights her way back to life in Rita Zoey Chin’s illuminating debut novel. Piling revelations atop otherworldly descriptions, the novel wields its uncanny enigmas in an unapologetic fashion. The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is an enchanting novel that embraces all of the magic that the world has to offer." Michelle Anne Schlinger, Foreword Reviews,5/5 stars

"Filled with magical realism, this is a moving story about the power of faith and community to deliver hope even in the most trying times. Chin delivers an endearing protagonist whose epic quest ends with a measure of closure and wonder about the magic embedded in the unknown." Poornima Apte, Booklist, starred review

"Readers of Alice Hoffman, Erin Morgenstern, and Sarah Addison Allen will love this character-driven contemporary fantasy." Margaret Kingsbury, BuzzFeed

"[An] imaginitive debut." The New York Times

"Rita Zoey Chin’s new novel is a beautiful, haunting tale." CrimeReads

"Rita Zoey Chin's novel The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is as imaginative as it is inventive, and its empath protagonist is unforgettable." Largehearted Boy

"Chin brings you a rich and imaginative story through the eyes of a memorable, thoughtful and compassionate young protagonist. ... [The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern] has more to say about obsession, love, magic, the bonds between mother and child, true deep sadness, and the wondrous wonders of the world than any book I’ve read in a long time." Jana Siciliano, Bookreporter

"Rarely does a novel come along that charms the reader from its very first page. Even rarer is the story that maintains its allure throughout and transports you to places you’ve never been. The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern is one of those rarities, a book as magical as the characters it depicts. From a carnival in Alabama to a coven of witches (think Glinda) that travels from place to place, and even to points in an expansive Wiccan spiral, Rita Zoey Chin’s debut novel takes readers on an enchanting emotional journey that will leave you captivated to the very end." Mike Maggio, Washington Independent Review of Books