Top positive review
encountering dislocation and difference
on May 25, 2004
This is an exceptional book that I would categorize generally under postcolonial writing. Writers who have emerged from histories impacted by colonization such as Salaman Rushdie and Leslie Marmon Silko often use a non-linear, form-twisting style that has taken the standard Western 'novel' to new heights. This is not just an artistic, aesthetic statement but also a highly political one as well that speaks to different cultures, different histories and continuing effects of of dislocation, relocation, and oppressions.
Ng is clearly an heir to this type of writing, and implements it superbly. With deceptively simple prose, her characters reveal the impacts of racism against Chinese immigrants to the US, and the despairs of working class immigrant life in San Francisco Chinatown. At the same time her characters show that what keeps a family together is sometimes love and loyalty, and sometimes the ever-present effects of history.
If you are looking for a book that reproduces comfortable mainstream standards for novels -- for example A to Z linearity, universal humanist themes and cultural familiarity -- then you may not be interested in this book. However, for those of us whose lives and minds are not so simplistic, and are willing to face unfamiliar realities due to differences of culture, history, class, race and gender (or perhaps for those who can identify with the realities revealed in this novel), then this is an excellent work whose beauty will stick with you after you are finished reading it.