MOON CAKES by Andrea Louie


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 A first novel as beautifully wrought but as emotionally remote as a stylized Chinese painting, detailing a young Chinese-American woman's bittersweet journey through memory and the present in search of meaning and self. Born in a small midwestern town where her parents, both first- generation immigrants, had settled and prospered, narrator Maya Li opens her account of her journey at its end--the southern tip of China, where she is spending the last night before leaving for home. Maya's voyage has a long history. As she begins the recollections that intersect with descriptions of the tour she's just made, she recalls that her odyssey began with a futile childhood search in her all-American hometown for moon cakes, traditional symbols of wholeness honored by her father, a doctor whose warm nature contrasted with the cool perfectionism of her mother and older sister. Depressed by her dead-end New York job and haunted by the past, Maya is searching for a completeness that her hyphenated background has not offered so far. As her tour group visits the major sights from a Mongolian yurt camp to the tombs of Xian, Maya begins to understand herself and her Chinese heritage. She recalls her father's early death; her undistinguished adolescence; her futile love for Lance, who later died of AIDS; and the great love of her life, Hong Kong native Alex, who left her because loyalty drew him home. Now she understands that she has also been looking for ``that pull of home'' Alex had obeyed and her father had listened for even in America. Wonderful rendering of details, both domestic and foreign--the sections on China are especially vivid--but Maya, like so many first-novel protagonists, is overwhelmed by her mission to relate and remember. Still, a writer to watch.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-345-38554-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995