Above-the-watermark first novel from Canadian poet Bowering. Following the death of his de facto guardian Lam Fan, Robert Lam, a half-Chinese coastal pilot, leaves his British Columbia home to travel around Vancouver Island in a converted trawler. During the course of his voyage, Robert is visited by Lam Fan's ghost. A worldly-wise opium addict in life, Lam Fan, in her new form, continues the mission she had started before death: chiding Robert. More insistent now that she's dead, Lam Fan initiates an extended conversation with Robert that narrows to focus on his real mother and father. Alternating between the 19th century and the 1950's, the discussion wends its way back to include the opium trade in China, settlement in British Columbia, and the ocean lore into which Robert Lam was apprenticed. At the heart of Lam Fan's revelations is the previously hidden character of Robert's mother, India Thackery, and her relationship to Robert's ne'er-do-well father. Despite frequent spurts of poesy that threaten to capsize the story, Bowering's feel for character and period is winning. In the end: not much forward drive, but buoyed along by some fine characterization and ambience nonetheless.