‘Yalpanam’, an old colonial house on Coal Island in Malaysia, is swarming with ghosts. Its inhabitant, one hundred and eighty-five year old recluse, Pushpanayagi, has been avoiding them for decades. But that is about to change. When eighteen-year-old neighbour Maxim Cheah, disgruntled at home, arrives on an apparent whim at ‘Yalpanam’, they begin an unlikely friendship that will rock Maxim’s world, and send Pushpanayagi whirling through space-time, back to 19th century and 1940s Malaya. Will the ghosts of the old lady’s past-a rigid British lepidopterist, his melancholic first wife, his deceptively vibrant second wife, their opium-addicted servant-release her? What will Maxim discover from her friendship with her enigmatic neighbour?