CHINA BOY by Kay Haugaard


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Lee is the orphaned China boy lured by the kind of promises that are made to be broken from likely starvation in Canton to exploitation in California at the time of the Gold Rush: the scenario is strong at its root and it has its moments but they're smothered by pages of seesawing convolutions; it's so much in need of a pruning and polishing that it doesn't pan out, as they say. There's Lee's brother back home who may or may not be dictating the letters requesting money for medicine, and the sister who may or may not be enslaved as a sing-song girl -- if she's alive; later on there's the singsong girl right there in California who may or may not be his sister, and also there's Willow who might marry Lee if he stays in America...and if he asks her. There's his homesickness balanced by the companionship of one Pan, who may or may not be taking advantage of Lee's tireless laboring; there's the vicious Australian who fleeces him three times and the paternal Hank who may or may not be on Lee's side. Throughout there's the ingenuousness that gets him into traps and the growing sophistication that doesn't help to get him out of them: they seem to be everywhere -- even within the Chinese community -- but Lee never says die. And ditto the story, no less diligent than he, no less willing to try any/everything to succeed, but it only falls prey to more problems that way, being low on control in the first place.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1971
Publisher: Abelard-Schuman