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.