Four generations of a family that evolves from Chinese to Chinese-American are spanned in these 11 linked stories from newcomer Wong. Macao and mainland China serve as bookends for the other nine stories, set in Honolulu. The thematic link of the whole is the erosion of traditional beliefs. Mai Wah, an elderly woman living in Macao, is wedded to the old ways (``Chinese medicine for Chinese people''). She hates the idea of her sickly grandson Wei being treated in a Westernized Hong Kong hospital. Several decades later, the middle-aged Wei is living in Honolulu with his wife Marie (an adopted child, she doesn't look ``pure Chinese'') and their children Julia and Michael. Wei is still sickly (a family trait), a reluctant immigrant unlikely to realize his American dream of owning a restaurant, but the more robust and Americanized Marie patronizes a white hairdresser and shops greedily in malls; only when burying her mother does she revert to tradition (deep graves fend off evil spirits). Meanwhile, Michael is eager to break with his past completely. Early on, he is attracted to white males; he has a serious crush on his track coach. In the concluding title story (by far the richest and most nuanced), he is visiting relatives in Hong Kong and Macao with Wei, but his heart is already in Chicago, where he is due to start college. In China, it is a stranger, a gay white American and Sinophile, who behaves like ``the perfect Chinese son'' around Wei, who in turn has been stunned to learn that his grandmother's version of family history was a ``fairy tale.'' Wei cannot accept a revision of the past, any more than he will be able to accept his son's gay present and future. That title story lends luster to an otherwise rather tepid collection that lacks an emotional charge.

Pub Date: March 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-89255-197-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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