Catherine Lim Short Stories

Catherine Lim Short Stories
Catherine Lim Short Stories

Catherine Lim is a Singaporean author known for writing about Singapore and traditional Chinese culture. I don’t think she’s very well known in the West, but she should be. I only discovered her fairly recently, thanks to finding “Ah Bah’s Money” in an anthology. Her stories are excellent—my reaction was the same as when I first read Alice Munro and Hisaye Yamamoto. I hope you enjoy the selections below, and many more, as much as I have.

Catherine Lim Short Stories

“Ah Bah’s Money”

Ah Bah saves his money and keeps it hidden in a tin so his alcoholic father won’t take it for beer. He’s looking forward to New Year’s, which means receiving ang pows—gifts of money from relatives and friends, which will significantly add to his total. (Summary)

“The Teacher”

A teacher reads a student’s composition to a colleague, complaining about the English usage and bad grammar. Exams are approaching and he doesn’t see how she’s going to pass. (Summary)

“Grandfather’s Story”

The narrator remembers her grandmother and grandfather. They had a very contentious relationship and were separated. Grandmother was known for her abusive treatment of her bondmaids and grandfather lived with a mistress. (Summary)

“The Malady and the Cure”

Mr. Sai Koh Phan is a civil servant who’s been distinguished by acquiring a strange malady. His story is becoming known around the world. It could have had serious political consequences if it hadn’t been handled so expertly. Mr. Sai Koh Phan is deeply grateful to his country for everything in his life. He expresses this gratitude by enthusiastically following all the government’s campaigns, and ensuring compliance in everyone under his authority.

A lot of this story can be read in the sample of O Singapore!: Stories in Celebration (30% in).

“Deadline for Love”

Agnes is thirty-seven and has a good career as one of Singapore’s top journalists. Her finances are good and her health is reasonably good too. The one area where she’s deficient is in her non-existent love life. She can remember all the moments of contact she’s had with men, and they weren’t even genuine. Agnes feels she had to do something about the lack of romance in her life.

Almost all of this story can be read in the sample of Deadline for Love and Other Stories. (25% in)

“The Taximan’s Story”

A taxi driver talks about his life, particularly the bad behavior he sees from young people while he’s on the job. He’s also had some trouble with one of his own daughters. (Summary)


Tay Soon and Lee Yiang become obsessed with buying their dream house, based on the expensive houses in their area and what they’ve seen in magazines. The stock market takes off and an acquaintance, Dr. Soo, makes a large gain. The couple decide to accelerate their savings by investing. (Summary)


Everyone tiptoes around the house making as little noise as possible during the rush of the wedding preparations so as not to disturb Grandpa, who’s eighty-four. The bride-to-be, Constance, makes the most noise as she calls shrilly to her fiancé and laughs loudly. The traditional tea ceremony between the new bride and her father-in law will be filmed and broadcast on Singaporean TV. She will wear a traditional gown for this part, the still-beautiful one worn by Grandmother sixty-five years ago. Grandpa has deteriorated and cries a lot; everyone hopes he will make it through the ceremony.


Kevin’s mother hits him on the head for drawing while he’s supposed to be studying. There’s no time for playing the fool. He has to get at least 95% on every test and he should get the highest marks in his class, not one of the two other boys who sometimes beat him. Kevin has received many physical punishments, as well as other kinds, even though he always does score at least 95%. There’s a Science test tomorrow and Kevin needs to be prepared.

“Male Child”

Chuan Poon’s wife is pregnant again. They have six daughters, twelve-years-old and under. He feels cursed for being denied a son. He remembers two incidents from his life that could have brought divine displeasure, and he takes the steps he can to atone for them. Hid dry-good business, though, has flourished and he’s doing well financially, unlike his friend, Ah Lek, who has squandered his money on gambling and women.

“The Journey”

Richard is thirty-two with an important job and earns a large salary. He’s deeply satisfied and grateful that he’s been able to buy his family fine things—a big beautiful house, expensive furnishings, jewelry and toys. He also sends money back home to his mother, grandmother and aunt who scrimped to send him to college. Richard’s wife, Mabel, is proud of her house and their modern ways, and she’s been successful making money as well. Richard thinks of the poverty he lived in as a boy.

I’ll keep adding Catherine Lim short stories as I read more.