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Elsa Park is a physicist at the top of her game, stationed at an international observatory in Antarctica thousands of miles from ghosts that have haunted her family her entire life. But even the South Pole can’t prevent her childhood imaginary friend from finding her. The reappearance of this ghostly apparition signals that the curse her mother told her afflicted the women of their line—who were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean folklore, and whose story Elsa has tried desperately to outrun—is finally catching up to her.

Elsa can’t get rid of the ghost girl who leads her, White Rabbit-like, to a Stockholm professor of Korean poetry. Even more disconcerting, she learns that her mother, who went mute and catatonic after a mysterious accident in Elsa’s adolescence, has suddenly spoken for the first time in decades, muttering about “the other girl.” 

When tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to the childhood home and cultural lore she rejected in favor of ambition and hard science. There, she grapples with a splintered family as she seeks long-elusive answers in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark folktales. Meanwhile, the fate Elsa spent her adult life running from looms ever closer. Just how tightly bound is she to the stories that cursed her ancestors? What more do we pass on—as individuals, as women, as immigrants far from home—besides our stories?