The Secret Talker: A Novel by Geling Yan

Rather, he was like a ghost, secretly taking part in her life, undetected.

It is interesting it takes a secret talker, a seemingly ‘infatuated’ stranger, to force the real Hongmei out of her safe little exterior. She isn’t as self-possessed as she seems, as happy with the state of her comfortable marriage, which she admits cost she and her husband so much at the start. A relationship that was itself once dangerous. Hongmei begins to correspond with a stranger through email, a man who seems to have gleaned a lot about her emotional state, her very soul even, just through observation. It seems harmless as she carefully responds to him. His attentions become unnerving, though he says he doesn’t want to cause trouble between she and her husband Glen, a professor she once risked her entire life in her native China for. But the probing, the intimacy that is budding between them, is reminding Hongmei of her real self, the woman she has buried behind the quiet demeanor of a devoted wife. His questions are reminding her of the village where she was born, the secrets of her childhood that she has never shared with Glen, and making her question every choice she made, every step she took to escape herself and her origins. She shares the history of her village with the secret talker, about the Chinese resistance, all the things she had erased. Shocking herself, she speaks truths that have never been revealed to Glen because so much between them has been built on her own lies, and how can you open yourself to vulnerability with your husband when deception is the glue of your love?

Ending up in America, sunny California doesn’t seem like the world she was desperate to be carried away to. Every world she has imagined, outside her little village, has brought nothing but disappointment and the same can be said about men. When she first set eyes on Glen, an older, western, foreign professor, she is a first lieutenant working as a military interpreter while taking classes to further her education. Her life then, as now, was going well, including her the life she had with her then partner. Something about Glen immediately bewitched her, and her beauty made her just as irresistible to him. Their pursuit was reckless, dangerous. Looking at their life now, there doesn’t seem to be even a remnant of that passion. So much has happened between them since then allowing a distance to grow, impossible to traverse. Glen isn’t the man she once hungered to conquer, isn’t forbidden fruit any longer. He is still a good man, a provider, solid. While she is still beautiful, intelligent, she finds herself in a numb state, but with the confessions she shares with this nameless person, everything feels charged with eroticism. How can she engage this man, with her husband often a room away? How guilty she feels, how elicit an act secret talking can be, and yet it feels like she is stepping back into her true skin. Why is she revealing so much, stripping herself naked, to the bone? Is this a foolish mistake? For once, she isn’t in charge, she isn’t the one in pursuit. “How could she have sunk so low? Her body had run off, miles away.” Where is this betrayal going to take her? She is tormented by guilt, shame and anger- lots of anger, at the stranger and curiously, at Glen too! Isn’t he to blame for the state they are in too? Will she unmask this person, this stranger who is like a ghost, creeping along her skin, privy to her every secret?

Hongmei enlists the help of her friend, thinking to outwit the man who has been ‘hiding behind a shelter of words’, it only serves to complicate things more, makes the truth so much harder to discern. Hongmei begins to obsess over their interactions, to dismiss her own reality again. There is so much she herself is blind to. Her cultural identity isn’t a separate thing from her identity as woman, a wife. For Glen, as much as herself, their culture has molded them and yet their emotions aren’t really as divided as they imagine. Her past was one where people are always watching, an attention that becomes expected, everything one wants felt dangerous. That was one thing I thought about, regarding the start of she and Glen’s love, the constant eyes, the threat that always loomed based on cultural demands. It’s important, I believe, to why she is numb when things are stable. Maybe I am wrong, it was just my take away. I think being older, having been married a long time, I am reading this book from a different perspective than I would at say, 20. Fresh love is about the thrill of the chase, seduction but as love matures it is a different animal. Hongmei has needs and rather than confront them it’s easier to escape what has been built. Things settle and often we bottle up things that gnaw at us just to keep the illusion of contentment, as to not rupture the peace we think we’ve made. But delving deeper into the life of the person she has been communicating with could be the final straw in her marriage… dare she go down the rabbit’s hole?

This was an engaging read and I actually loved the ending, one I didn’t expect. The emotions are beautiful and sometimes biting. As more about Hongmei’s past is revealed, you begin to understand the reasons she seems to be willing to turn away from Glen but she turns away from herself just as much. Mysterious, quietly suspenseful, and heartbreaking. It is a psychological tale where the main character gets lost in a maze sometimes of her own making, not just the secret talker’s manipulations. A beautifully written slow burn.

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

HarperVia

Nights When Nothing Happened: A Novel by Simon Han

Here was Jack, a boy who took so little space he might as well still be in Tianjin.

One of the most tender moments in this novel begins when Jack watches his grandparents from the security check at the Beijing airport. Turning away, wiping their eyes as they send their grandson to live with his parents in America, the reality of Jack’s separation from the very people who have loved and cared for him in China for the six years of his young life has proven to be an inevitability. A hard fact for Jack to digest as the plane swallows him, delivering him to parents who are nothing more than a photograph, phantom voices on a telephone, veritable strangers awaiting his arrival in a foreign land- America.

The Chengs have worked hard to achieve the American dream, a world that could offer security and opportunities for a fruitful future for their child and the chance to have another. The family of three has grow to four with the birth of a sister, Annabel. His mother Patty is employed with a tech company spending her days tinkering with tiny microchips, changing the future. His father Liang busies himself photographing strangers for a living, both affording them a home in the suburbs of Dallas. They are forging ahead, trying to ease into the American way of life, because even if Patty is hardly ever home, consumed by the demands of her career, and Liang is still haunted by his past in China, lost in understanding who he is in this country and his own family, it’s the price they are willing to pay. However, it is the events you aren’t expecting that may be your downfall.

Annabel has been under Jack’s protection since birth, seeming more their parent’s true “American” child than Jack, who is still a stranger, taking up little space, always on his best behavior as if a guest, demanding nothing of either his mother or father. not hugs nor comfort of any sort. But he isn’t the only one who feels like an outsider, Patty and Liang’s marriage is starved of love and attention. Neither spouse’s needs are being met, and little Annabel has far too much freedom and wildness within that neither adult is able to tame. Liang is tired of his wife’s absences, maybe a reminder of his own mother’s vanishing in his mysterious, sad childhood. His sleep often filled with cries of torments his son Jack can only wonder at. Nightmares from a past he doesn’t talk about but has left deep scars. Patty wonders, is he forgetting the bright future, dreams of a PhD she had to give up in order to obtain their son’s visa? Her husband too has become another job, another demand, another thing to decipher. He isn’t the one carrying the family on his shoulders, he is the one that gets to raise the children while she supports them all. But does that mean he has more claim to them? More authority? And why isn’t he fixing the issue between Elsie and Annabel? The school problems? Why is it so hard for him to understand anything?

Annabel’s sleepwalking is about to become the catalyst for a big misunderstanding, with Jack as the all seeing eye.  The recalcitrant, little girl has been too long indulged, and her mean, childish games go too far when she harasses her friend Elsie. Patty and Liang are sure their daughter is the one being bullied, but as they are strangers to each other, maybe they are missing the warning signs their little girl is showing. Could it be the school is more aware, correct in their assessment?

With Thanksgiving as the chance to come together and speak to the parents of Annabel’s friend/enemy, their house will instead become the backdrop of an incident, good intentions be damned. Words are heavy, as Liang knows all too well ‘ a word can mean anything’ and when girls misuse them, chaos ensues. Annabel’s threats aren’t strong enough to control her friend and soon words will worm their way in the minds of the adult’s heads giving birth to dangerous assumptions. Jack’s loyalty is tested, and Jack knows more than anyone the importance of protection and who it is his job to protect even if it shames his father, splintering the family.

This is an intelligent, engaging read about not just the immigrant experience but how blending in can go haywire. It is how we strip away our identity, our very happiness for what is perceived as superior, something we’re told to desire. All they wanted was a better life, but in the process they are losing control of the family they are making sacrifices for. When Liang tries to explain what really happened, even his own family fails him, and what follows opens them to intense scrutiny, and shaming by their community. The structure they built crumbles, but maybe in breaking down they can confront the emotions they’ve been denying themselves and find a new direction.

The storyline isn’t focused on Jack alone, I feel like I knew each of the Chengs and even with her spite I came around to liking Annabel, who is simply a product of too much good intentions. Wildly complex and fragile, more fragile than the adults realize she is the destructive wind carelessly blowing through their world. Jack is perfectly written, we know from the start his parents are ‘a destination he did not want to visit’, and he is trapped firmly in the role of witness. In his heart, his most important role is that of a loyal brother, through and through. Liang is broken, feels inept and confused still despite the years they’ve lived in America, always following Patty’s lead and Patty isn’t really sure where they are anymore or why. The only constant is her discontent and anxieties. How did they get here, where will they go now that the cart has been upended?

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Penguin Group

Riverhead Books

White Ivy: A Novel by Susie Yang

Even then, Ivy had none of the undiscerning friendliness of other children; her love was passionate but singular, complete devotion or none at all.

Complete devotion, singular love, obsession, class, frightening stolen pleasures… these are just a few of the things burning beneath Ivy Lin’s thieving skin. Is her immigrant grandmother Meifeng to blame, raising her in China while Ivey’s parents left for America and a better life, entrusting her into Meifeng’s care for three formative years? Or does her influence spoil the child’s morals when they are settled in Boston, Massachusetts and reunited with Ivy’s family? After-all, it is when they are living in the city where Meigfeng’s first most important lesson, one that requires stealing at the local Goodwill, takes root. Or does Ivy’s inward turn lay at her distant, cold, hardworking parents feet, who want nothing more than for Ivy to grow up and become a doctor?

Maybe it’s all those books in the library she escapes into, full of bleak tales where beauty is the cure for all. One thing is certain, she isn’t the adored child in her family, that falls to her younger, indulged brother, American born Austin. “And so Ivy grew like a wayward branch”, and when she falls in love there are no half-measures. Friendless, she bonds with a boy trapped in starker circumstances. A lonely liar, she befriends Roux Roman, fascinated by his gruff manners and impressed by his “enterprising spirit” the two share dark secrets and the shame of being outliers. Always hiding something, Roux respects her criminal savvy, but not so much her eagerness to rise above their humble origins. But her heart belongs to Gideon.

Ivy yearns for the privilege her female classmates take for granted, but her most fervent desire is to have Gideon Speyer. Speyer, who lives in a glass and stone manor, son of a state senator, a beautiful, youthful mother and cool older sister- people with money, those whose very voices speak of ownership and everything her family isn’t. Piercing her ears, wearing the right clothes, nothing will make her look like the girls in the popular clique, erase her ethnicity… she will never pull off being the typical, lazy American kid. Teens who have never known a firm hand nor stern word, unlike Ivy whose parents have mastered corporal punishment like an art form. If she can get the right birthday present for her crush, she believes everything will work out in her favor, even if she has to break her parents rules. Just when she thinks her devious plotting has been successful, everything crashes around her, so too the house of lies she has built.

Busted by her mother Nan, suffering publication humiliation, Nan proves Meifeng isn’t the only woman in the family with a lesson to teach Ivy. She banishes her to China, for her own good. It is there a lasting impression is made, where she learns that it is possible for a Chinese girl like her to have everything. Her Aunt Sunrin’s wealth is a constant glow, as vast and bright as her generosity. Ivy finally gets a taste of the good life… the trip is life altering. When she returns home, her parents upend everything yet again solidifying the sad fact that Gideon is a dying dream.

Home again behind the walls of deprivation, all she can think about are the things missing in her life, longing for the fresh smells of New England. She’ll never buckle down and become the studious girl her parents desire, but she knows she must work harder if she is to get into the college of her choice, despite the fury it is sure to ignite. Neither American or Chinese, or maybe both, Ivy carries the weight of Meifeng and her mother Nan’s pasts, misunderstanding their choices, hearts. Ashamed of her family or proud of their climb, it is her own choices that come into question.

By some strange happenstance, Sylvia Speyer drops into Ivy’s life and a flood of all the things she thought were lost to her, especially Gideon, come rushing back. Invited into the circle, she isn’t going to blow her chance with Gideon and continues to worm her way in at every opportunity. If she has to display false cheer, ‘say frivolous things’ and charge up her credit cards to secure her place in his life, so be it! “Magic, she’d realized then, was not inherent to a place, it emanated from the person viewing it.” But even all things magical can turn dark. Just when she is swimming through life, uncovering all the secrets she needs to succeed in Gideon’s world, the past coughs up a surprise.

Who are you Ivy? How far are you willing to go? What is really at the center of your lonely, hungry heart?

This is dark, so dark. What traps do we set for ourselves when we cannot control our desires? How blinding love and shame can be, married to each other! The immigrant dream for a better life, the demons that follow on the heels of our children, the disease of want. The rage that some of us are forced to scratch the ground for our fair share while from afar other’s lives appear charmed. The reminders thrown in our face when we’ve shucked our old skin… Grave sins, dirty secrets, betrayals, is this the gilded cage you really want? Is it better to settle, remain rooted to where you belong? I loved it. I wish I could write more but don’t want to spoil anything! It’s one of my favorite reads this year. Incredible debut, it blew me away!

Publication Date: November 3, 2020

Simon & Schuster

Shadow of the Hunter by Su Tong (Translated by James Trapp)

If our heads can be thought of as rich, fertile fields, Grandfather’s was a stretch of pillaged wilderness and a scene of desolation.

Described as a dysfunctional vision of romantic obsession linked to Chinese fables, where the unwitting predator finds itself as the prey, Su Tong’s novel Shadow of the Hunter made me wonder, who do I trust? The victims are as horrid as the hunter. Just when I felt for one character, they would do something unforgivable, that has the reader wondering at their motivation. The character who seems to sweeten you is just as likely to bite you. Fairy Princess may as well be a chaotic wind. Maybe that is what so inflames Baorun’s passions for her. I am getting ahead of myself, the story begins with blooming flowers in the spring as Grandfather makes his way to have his portrait taken. A festival day, portrait day, for the old man. Doubting the living will honor him after his final death (you have to read), the old man takes the reigns and decides to honor himself, humiliating his family. It is Baorun’s job to save face by preventing “Gramps” from having his portrait taken, but where the story goes from there is a journey of obsessive love, bondage and revenge. Grandfather understands too well the sorrows of the dead, without filial piety a soul has no hope. Naturally, this insult enrages his daughter-in-law who despises the old fool for his longevity. There is a girl at the heart of it, family ancestors, superstition, a mental hospital, and a grandfather who is obsessed with his lost soul.

Grandson Baorun ties himself in knots with his very own ropes when his emotional turmoil infects his senses. When he and Liu Sheng (a local celebrity of sorts from a prominent family) make a deal, involving a fiery girl. In doing so, they have no clue how long they will burn together.

I can’t begin to describe the twists and turns nor the curious betrayals and lies. There is heavy injustice and you cannot sort the good from the bad, nor make sense of the logic the “victim” uses. If only Grandfather’s Golden Rule was followed by all, ” be careful, and then be more careful.” I went away with heavy thoughts of my own. Nothing enchants quite like Chinese fables with their entertaining characters, sometimes they verge on the absurd but never without morals. I found more online about the ancient Chinese tale Su Tong used as inspiration. A mantis stalks a cicada unaware of the bird behind him, and thinking about that conundrum gives credence to “deranged” grandfather’s Golden Rule. You can never be too careful, and none of them are.

It isn’t a light read, you really want to dig in, in fact digging is also part of the story but I won’t spoil it. I was enthralled. I haven’t read Raise the Red Lantern but have since added it to my TBR shelf. If you enjoy Chinese fiction, you won’t be disappointed. It translates beautifully.

Alain Charles Asia Publishing

Sinoist Books

The Majesties: A Novel by Tiffany Tsao

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Blood does run thick. Even if poison trumps all.

A  wealthy, successful, prominent Chinese Indonesian family has been poisoned, every single one of them, by one of their own. “It was caught on a surveillance tape, so there’s no denying that Estella was the culprit”. As Gwendolyn “Doll” lies in and out of consciousness she is left trying to comprehend how her sister Evelyn could commit so evil an act. Why would she want to destroy their entire family, and herself? Why did she want to put an end to the family line? Yet… “the wealthy don’t need reasons”,  for anything else they may do, is the reigning belief in Indonesia about the affluent. Doll knows first hand the rot in the line, the many calculated actions of her entire clan. How can she possibly find the one moment, the seed of destruction?

Scavenging through her memories, family secrets are brought to light. What exactly happened to their mysterious young aunt “Tante Sandra” who was there one day and tragically gone the next? What are the sisters to think when it dawns on them that you can’t take your family’s ‘stories’ as fact anymore? How are they to to understand that evil is excusable if in the name of snuffing out any threat to the family’s reign? How much can the reader rely on Doll’s own retelling, when she herself has often “blinded myself” to the family she moves through?

Doll takes us back through her memories, in their youth “despite our mother’s disgust” the sisters had been enthralled by bugs, ants, carpenter bees, and grasshoppers, as if there was something ‘illicitly fascinating’ about their ‘indulgence’ in the world of creepy crawlies. College abroad, they find themselves studying in America with the freedom to explore as they wish “infected with American enthusiasm” though they now stick out as outsiders due to their ethnicity and all that difference entails. They take a class on entomology, which leads to a fascinating career for Gwendolyn, something she can create on her own after she feels cast out in the cold when a man named Leonard enters Estella’s life, as insidious as a disease. It is this love that comes between the sisters, that serves as the measure of family loyalty. A brutal, abusive love, but with the alliance of two prominent families their future success is iron clad, one must endure, one must always save face. Married life changes Estella, ending the closeness Doll once felt for her big sister, who now faces her days feeling like she isn’t good enough, brow beaten by her mother-in-law, confused by the changing behavior of her husband Leonard. In the meantime Doll’s busy with her own life, from the rise of Bagatelle to it’s success as other empires begin to fall.

When her sister needs her the most, she admits to falling short, but there is so much more to the story, and we must wait for Doll to divulge it, while she can still draw her breath, ravaged by poison.

This is a story of sisterly bonds, family loyalty and shame, and the atrocities only the wealthy can commit. Who is the victim, who is the criminal? It is a strange novel with a dark ending, yes read it.

Publication Date: January 21, 2020

Atria Books

 

 

Searching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel by Jean Kwok

 

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Often there’s a dichotomy between the beautiful sister and the smart one, but in our family, both of those qualities belong to my sister. 

The sadness of this novel is like ants under the skin. There are choices we make because of this enormous love we have for our children that end up tearing apart their universe. It was only meant to be a year, as Ma and Pa tried to make a place for themselves in the Beautiful Country. But New York is so much harder than they realized it would be, with their meager savings soon exhausted, and no hope for work anytime soon, it is with a heavy, shameful heart that Ma decides she will do right by Sylvie and accept the offer from her cousin Helena. With Grandma living with her cousin in Holland, caring for Helena’s young son therefore, unable to come to America and help with her baby girl, Helena has ‘kindly’ offered a place for Sylvie to live. Her mother writes her, “if you were to entrust your most precious fruit to me, perhaps it might alleviate your burden.”  After much internal struggle, and the reality of their hardships in America as immigrants who cannot even speak the language, it is decided- but it is a devastating decision.

A child in between places her entire life, at the age of nine Sylvie finally returns to live with her biological family. Unlike Amy, born after the difficult years and her parents assimilation into American culture, Sylvie feels like the cast off, a stranger. Torn from the only home she has ever known, feeling more that they wanted her back only so she can babysit her little sister (the longed for cherished daughter), she feels as unwelcome here. Thrust into yet another world where she doesn’t fit, painted as ‘other than’ for her accent alone, suffering the humiliation of a corrective eye patch that only adds more fuel to her awkwardness, hurt by the racist barbs from her peers, her mind still embedded in all things Dutch, she is the one who never truly assimilates into one culture nor one home. In both houses, in both countries she longs for the things she has been forced to abandon. All a child feels is rejection, for a child’s heart doesn’t understand the reason of the adult world, a hungry belly is nothing compared to the hunger for a mother/father’s embrace. A grown woman now, Princeton and MIT educated, a management consultant, more than surpassing her parents humble world, “how did a brilliant creature like Sylvie arise from such mundane stock as our ma and pa?” she is called back to what she feels  is her true mother’s deathbed, her grandmother. It is here where she mysteriously disappears.

It is Amy’s turn to be the brave sister, “Amy, so much like Ma, had eaten from frightened hare meat”, who Sylvie said needed to broaden her horizons.  Despite her fear, she travels to the Netherlands, her sister needs her! As Amy tells the story from her perspective, we see a different side of the mother that Sylvie feels never wanted her. Helena and Willem aren’t as warm and welcoming as she expected, cousin Lukas exudes a mixture of anger and sorrow, there are implications, accusations about Sylvie from the moment Amy lands. This isn’t the life she had imagined for her big sister, how could ma and pa have given her away, sent her to this cold “Grimm’s fairy-tale world?” She doesn’t really know her sister, Sylvie has never opened up about the heart of her childhood here, with this other family, “The enormity of the existence my Sylvie had before me yawns at my feet like an abyss.”  She must dissect Sylvie’s life, and every single person who has their part in it. Sylvie’s secretly unhappy, inner life is spilling open, even her enviable marriage to Jim was collapsing, her return to Holland a chance to ‘leave everything behind’ only forges her deeper into old family dynamics, roles her calculated Aunt Helena created. Her old wounds throb, the past revealed to the reader, no matter how much she has made of herself, she still feels like nothing. Entrusted to her aunt and grandmother, no one ever gave a thought that maybe the ‘better life’ robbed her of every happiness. Never understanding just what it is about her that rubs Helene the wrong way, wondering what has soured her aunt’s heart so much that the niece she has been entrusted to raise she treats more like a burden, beneath her contempt. This callousness burdens Sylvie with the insurmountable task of trying to prove her worth, long after she has been gone. But surely too there were brief moments of kindness? What of the distance within’ her real family? Do her ma and pa ever get her fully back? She wonders if they ever loved her at all.

This novel is incredibly heavy, of course it’s about the sister’s relationship but as we delve deeper into ma’s pain a raw side of the immigrant experience is exposed, even in the “curtain” between mother and daughters. Sylvie surpasses every expectation and in doing so the divide grows wider and wider between she and ma. Such strength and independence in a child makes ma fearful,  the inability to be a mother in a way other american women can, language an insurmountable obstacle, there is comfort in shrinking oneself but it’s a temporary one when the true cost is affection, bonding. Sylvie is gone again, but she never seemed to ever return to begin with, and it is an earth shattering reality that things would have been different, had they only kept her in the first place. Just what was her goal?

Amy doesn’t really know her sister, failed to understand how having another family entirely affected her, for better or for worse. Jim and Sylvie fought before she disappeared? Why would she run away? Helena accuses her of taking her family inheritance, but Sylvie wanted for nothing, why would she? Greed fills Helena’s heart more than concern for Sylvie who could be hurt somewhere, all alone, in need of rescue. Just how did she survive this cold woman who raised her? What does she know? What of Grandma’s ‘jewels’, who did she intend have them, if they even exist at all? Who is suspect? What is Amy missing? Maybe Sylvie isn’t the only one she didn’t really know at all.

The police don’t seem to give Amy hope, and Amy knows in her heart it’s time to ‘step up’ and be the sister Sylvie has always needed. She must shuck of her inborn cowardice. “Sylvie, where are you?” She must discover the who Sylvie is first. Every revelation gives rise to more questions. Anyone could have been involved, no one is as they seem, certainly not Sylvie’s husband Jim who has his own deep secrets and is unraveling, nor even Sylvie herself. How could so many terrible things have been happening in her big sister’s life, kept so neatly contained, that Amy didn’t see the fissures? How could two sister envy each other’s lives without understanding the pain humming beneath the surface? How did Amy miss so much of her family’s history, the bitterness?  She is navigating Sylvie’s Netherlands, hoping to feel her big sister return to her in this way, trying to uncover what chased her away. She may discover a heart that was more vulnerable than Sylvie ever let on, a woman far more fragile than her bravado implied. Love can sneak in even when hate wants to assert dominance, all of our intentions can destroy the very family we seek to protect. What about ma and pa? Surely the blame must be smeared all over them too, for ever sending Sylvie away. She must discover the one thing that has led to her sister’s mysterious vanishing, if she ever hopes to find her. But she may discover a darker family history, exposing long buried shame… will there be any love left for forgiveness.

Published June 2019  Somehow I kept putting off this review to meet with the release date, and am kicking myself for not posting it!

William Marrow

Harper Collins

 

 

 

 

 

Home Remedies: Stories by Xuan Juliana Wang

 

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It’s what Taoyu wanted, to disappear from Hai’s life completely, to leave a wound that would ache. That was the only way they could be equals.

Home Remedies is a gorgeous collection of stories about Chinese immigration, family structure, love, sex and the privilege of choices. The future for each character is never certain, and splits open guiding them to places they never imagined they would be. Home, some make their way in American life with ease, abandoning their old skins and sometimes their family too. Others cling to the old ways of a country they will never return to. One thing is certain, each person will make their own story, even if it means becoming someone other than what’s expected.

In White Tiger of the West, the world is weary of Grandmasters, there no longer seems to be a place for spirituality but for one obedient little girl Grandmaster Tu could be the very thing that awakens a tiger, and gives her the flight of freedom. Home Remedies of the old involved tonics, tinctures, herbs… but in one story remedies are cleverly applied to survive say, a “bilingual heart” and “self-doubt”. Olympic divers are one in Vaulting the Sea, but what love is equal? Just how much can you meld yourself to another? I thought this was a beautifully painful tale of love and rejection, if any story is about identity it was this one. My favorite and most heart-breaking is Algorithmic Problem Solving for Father-Daughter Relationships. Logic as the meaning, the answer to all of lives obstacles simple application of algorithms “a theory that proves itself day after day” until a former professor, clueless father needs to solve the new problem of his daughter Wendy, who “I somehow managed to drive away from me.” My heart! By far the best story within!

In this collection time stands still or rushes past. Characters are emerging into a bright future or retiring from their dreams, wearing clothes of the dead, or slicing through water in perfect sync. Sometimes they are just suffering through an “unremarkable period” of their life. It is stories about the youth, but the old have their say too, it’s like they live in different worlds sometimes. Moving, strange, exciting, biting… fantastic.

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Crown Publishing

Hogarth