The Magic Circle

 I sit by your bed and watch you, as I sometimes do. There are days when you are so beautiful and vivacious and alive, we cannot believe that you are going to die. Other days, we are convinced you are at death's door and that this, this is the day that we will lose you … Now I bear witness to the disease that is eating you up alive, ravaging your physical shell. I look at your wasted body, once so slim and graceful; at the jaundiced pallor of your once perfect skin stretched tight around the still lovely bones of your face; at the way shadows collect in the hollows around your eyes and your collarbones. And very slowly, inside me, something small starts to crack. A tiny fissure that spreads and widens, before splitting open entirely to let something hot and liquid well up like molten lava, threatening to spill out the sides of my mouth, as rich and bitter and metallic as blood. Is this then what heartbreak feels like?


The Magic Circle tells the story of what happens when Charmaine Chan’s sister Elaine is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. As the illness progresses, family members living on different continents gather together during Elaine’s last days. Striving to distract Elaine from the worst effects of the cancer, Charmaine takes to the pen: conjuring up the vanished world of their childhood in Singapore, and discovering a way to keep her promise to Elaine’s six-year-old daughter.

A contemplation on grief and loss, nostalgia and yearning, The Magic Circle is for anyone who’s been torn apart and put back again by the inexplicable power of memory.

Read the Prologue and Chapter One



The Magic Circle

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$18.60 SGD



$18.60 SGD


Charmaine Chan's lyrical memoir speaks to the soul of anyone who knows the desperate pain of watching a loved one dying, little by little [...] She confronts the dread of no more being able to form new memories with the only other inhabitants of a shared local universe as us—our siblings—with precision, sensitivity and, above all, honesty. —Serene Goh, head of SPH Content Lab

In a mix of raw honesty and good humour, [Charmaine] does not try to sugarcoat the reality of the pain caused by the loss of her sister, but rather manages to find the remedy that eventually makes grief bearable, a blend of strong memories and strong family bonds. —Shelly Bryant, poet, writer, and translator

... a breathtaking rumination about grief and memory, loss and love. —Jennifer Chen, editor of The Peak


Charmaine Chan