Harper, 2016 (2015)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
Reviewed by Bob Walch
n Cecily Wong's striking debut she takes her reader from China's Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor and the early 1960s. At the center of this Chinese-Hawaiian family saga are three generations of women who seem to have a knack for making major romantic missteps that come back to haunt them.
ong constructs her story around the parable of the red string of fate, which deals with notions of fate versus free will. The red string is a reference to the cord that binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, but it also punishes mistakes in love with a destructive knot that is passed down the family line.
s the reader will quickly discover, there are some interesting and unexpected
that complicate Leong family lives. At the turn of the century, Frank Leong, who creates a shipping empire in China, relocates his family from his native land to Hawaii.
nd with the move the reader discovers that something ancient follows the family to their new home on Oahu. That
becomes clear as the daughters and wives of the family share the narrative during chores, as they reveal the secrets, lies, and sacrifices that are part of this riveting story.
using on the shocking events that rock the family toward the end of the novel one of the characters explains, '
This was not fate, I told myself; it was the furthest thing from it ... The tangles from one generation to the next, the mistakes passed from mother to daughter, the lies from father to son – it wasn't fate, who could call that fate? These things were within our control, outcomes not linked to our flesh, and all of us, every single one of us, had played a hand in this destiny.
poignant story with some totally unexpected surprises that blindside both the novel's characters and the reader,
is a book you'll find difficult to set aside. This is one of those rare reading experiences you'll want to share with family and friends.
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