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One of the most moving father-son stories in decades, this first novel from the author of the prize-winning collection Pangs

of Love (1991) is also a knowing and witty take on the immigrant experience, at the same time that it transcends the particularities

of that experience.

Sterling Lung is a great cook but, by his own admission, a lousy son. The offspring of Chinese immigrants "Zsa Zsa" and

"Genius" Lung, he doesn't want to take over the family business (a laundry) or to marry the imported Chinese girl of his parents'

dreams. Sterling expresses himself through food, and as the story begins, is employed as a chef by a Connecticut WASP women's

club. The opening scene’sterling is cooking a lavish meal for a blind date while his putative girlfriend, Bliss, is on her way to

visit him—establishes him as a sensualist while the subsequent scenes make clear that he's rather detached in more traditional

emotional ways. In any case, Sterling goes on to marry Bliss and to bond with her warm but demanding Jewish father; their two

children, Moses and Ira, personify their parents' hope for a peaceful, blended, multicultural future. But Sterling, in his typically

ambivalent way, messes up: There's an incident—reminiscent, in its surreal horror, of that in John Irving's The World According

to Garp—and a death. Sterling's self-conscious paranoia has, literally, done his family in. But it is only after he has lost nearly

everything that he can allow himself to learn about the choices and disappointments his father—who has always seemed so sure

of everything’suffered before he was born.

As grandly comic as an American carnival and as tragic as any Chinese opera.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2000
ISBN: 0-399-14603-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000