LOTUS LAND by Monica Highland


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A chunky, initially flavorsome family-saga centered in Southern California (18811945) and following the inter-related careers of: orphan Sung, who leaves China for the ""Golden Mountain"" at the age of ten--lured by tales of round-eyed barbarians seeking cheap railroad labor; Mexican Magdalena, pregnant by a gringo lover, who escapes her drunken father and nearly dies during her 12,000-mile trek through the desert; and Clifford Creighton, who survives a seven-day railroad journey away from his constricting Baltimore upbringing. The three will meet in the City of the Angels. Magdalena, now a maid in a hotel, offers Clifford astonishing sex and an amusing business investment--she plans to start a boarding house; and it is Sung, already a hotel wheeler-dealer, who aids Magdalena in her venture. Soon, then, Magdalena's boarding-house is thriving, but a terrible plague strikes down most of her boarders; Clifford's bride Victoria, who has arrived to face down a ""mistress,"" instead joins Magdalena and Sung in tending the sick; and among the survivors is baby orphan Raoul, whom Magdalena will raise as her own. By 1895 the trio is prospering--with land deals aplenty. And there are second-generation prospects galore as Sung takes two colorful wives: ""imported"" Chinese wife Lin, of silken subservience but steel within; and Katarina, a delightfully mad Slovak whose foreplay is introduced by ""Yippee yi yo kai yai!"" The kids, of course, bring problems: Raoul is sullen and shifty and will marry Maria, daughter of an old Spanish family; Clifford's unpleasant daughter Ruth will marry flamboyant yet dim Allessandro, Maria's brother; Clifford's mid-life son Gary is seriously wounded in WW II; Sung's wife Lin dies in a fire, and the only child to survive is George, who joins Raoul in a gambling-palace venture. But the third generation--especially Clifford's grandson Lex, with lovely Jewish refugee Torah Tovias--brings happiness; the problem-kids straighten out; and it all ends in a Utopian, multi-racial wedding celebration. . . as Sung, Magdalena, and Clifford toast their mutually beneficial past. Though much stronger at the rags-to-riches start than later on: plump, professional dynasty action throughout, with L.A.'s melting-pot history turned into a warm-hearted (if undeniably contrived) family pageant.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan