A high-spirited memoir that traces a Chinese doctor’s unusual experiences.
Considering the path paved by his ancestors, Choy had no choice but to become a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking surgeon. Born in Shanghai in the 1920s, the author witnessed two Japanese invasions as well as a dangerous evacuation to Hong Kong during his childhood. However, those events could be considered commonplace compared to the daring life that his grandparents lived, which would later influence most of his choices. His grandfather was a pirate after the Opium Wars in the 1840s, a captain of three ships that ran between Hong Kong and Canton. His grandmother was a highborn, strong-willed maiden who had been dropped by her nursemaid as a child while she had a lollipop in her mouth. The lollipop’s stick punctured her larynx, making her mute for the rest of her life. This didn’t stop her from demanding to be sent to a boy’s school so she could learn to read. In a time of arranged marriages and strict social class rules, the two managed to overcome these obstacles, marry and start a farm in Hawaii. The grandparents returned to Shanghai when Choy was a child, living in the family house and influencing his perception of what to expect from life. What Choy expected is what he got–excitement, travel, education, and a love for inventions and women. The memoir is not organized chronologically and, is bursting with sometimes unbelievable stories, which can make it read like a list of confusing experiences. For example, Choy’s narrative jumps from the evacuation of Hong Kong in 1938 to the story of his father’s journey from Hawaii to China in 1910. Readers learn about his medical school escapades, military service and madcap meetings with his four blonde wives in a scattered array of anecdotes, historical asides and unrelated memories. The most organized section is the last chapter, where Choy neatly lists his unending inventions, including the laser knife and motion-sickness bracelet. Aside from the disorganization, the author’s rich life experiences are an entertaining read.
A fascinating, if jumbled account of a life packed with adventure.