White Ghost Girls is a novel about two American sisters, Frankie and Kate, growing up in
At the beginning of the book, Kate and Frankie’s father is away and they are out on a boat with their mother and some of the family’s Chinese servants. The girls are playing in the water when they see a dark mass floating up from the depths. They see it is a body, covered in seaweed with fish biting at its flesh, and later learn it is one of many bodies that are washing out to see after being killed by Communist demonstrations near the
When she and Kate accompany the family’s servant, Ah Bing, to the market one day, she again tries to be reckless and disobedient. When they get to the market there is a Communist demonstration, and chaos erupts when the police arrive. Frankie convinces Kate to slip away from Ah Bing and the girls go into an alley where two large men confront them. The men take Frankie into a butcher shop and give Kate a bag of what they tell her is fruit but is actually a bomb. They make her put it into the middle of the police line, and the bomb explodes, killing several people. While Kate is away, the men abuse Frankie, and after this, she becomes even more unstable. Here the sisters’ relationship with each other also declines. They begin keeping secrets from each other, and Kate is forever burdened with her secret of what she did in the market. She is also burdened by her sister’s constant need for attention, for an outward show of love. About herself, Kate says, “I’m just supposed to be Katenick, muimui, little sister, follower, sidekick” (Greenway 95 ). Kate is Frankie’s shoulder to lean on, her constant support throughout all their schemes. In Frankie’s pursuit of affection, she overshadows Kate, or just drags her along, and Kate can never be recognized as her own person.
Another turning point in the story is when the girls’ parents decide to send Frankie away to boarding school. Their mother says she cannot control her anymore, and wants to send her to a place that will change her into a young lady. At this Frankie becomes more desperate than ever to be noticed, to be shown love. She smokes more, disobeys more, and seduces a boy at a pool party the family attends. She also flirts openly with her father’s friends. All this time their father is oblivious to what she is doing and why. He thinks only of the war and is obsessed with the fighting and adventure he finds in
1. Do you think that Frankie did the diobedient, reckless things she did to break out of her mothers expectations, to get people to notice her, or both?
2. In the book the girls' father is so drawn to the war that he thinks of nothing else and is blind to the problems in his own family. Why do you think war mesmerizes people like this?