Sep 13, 2011

Book Review: Pao, a Novel by Kerry Young

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

As I watch the ship sail away I realise that I would never leave Jamaica. Never. I was committed to her, for good or bad, rich or poor, in sickness and in health. (ch. 7)

Title: Pao: A Novel by Kerry Young
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; July 5, 2011
Source: personal copy

Publisher's description of PAO: As a young boy, Pao comes to Jamaica in the wake of the Chinese Civil War and rises to become the Godfather of Kingston's bustling Chinatown. Pao needs to take care of some dirty business, but he is no Don Corleone. The rackets he runs are small-time, and the protection he provides necessary, given the minority status of the Chinese in Jamaica. Pao, in fact, is a sensitive guy in a wise guy role that doesn't quite fit. Often mystified by all that he must take care of, Pao invariably turns to Sun Tzu's Art of War. The juxtaposition of the weighty, aphoristic words of the ancient Chinese sage, with the tricky criminal and romantic predicaments Pao must negotiate builds the basis of the novel's great charm.

A tale of post-colonial Jamaica from a unique and politically potent perspective, Pao moves from the last days of British rule through periods of unrest at social and economic inequality, through tides of change that will bring about Rastafarianism and the Back to Africa Movement. Pao is an utterly beguiling, unforgettable novel of race, class and creed, love and ambition, and a country in the throes of tumultuous change.

About the author: Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese-African mother and a Chinese father-a businessman in Kingston's shadow economy who provided inspiration for Pao. Young moved to England in 1965 at the age of ten. She earned her MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University. This is her first novel. Formore information about Kerry, visit

Guest reviewer, Kathi Harris, has this review about the novel, Pao.
The book PAO by Kerry Young brought to mind fond memories of life in Jamaica. It is PAO'S story, told by him in a Jamaican voice. It is also a historical novel. Though I grew up in Jamaica, this book taught me quite a bit about the Chinese in Jamaica.

Pao arrives in Jamaica from China in the mid 1940s, with his mom and brother, after the Chinese civil war in which his father dies. Zhang is Pao's father's friend who came to Jamaica some time ago. Zhang is Godfather in Jamaica's Chinatown, and provides to Pao and his family, a place to stay and his protection.

Pao starts out as a kid just helping his uncle in his business.The fact that some of this business is illegal puts him on a path that leads to his becoming the biggest and baddest crime figure in Jamaica's Chinatown - Mathews lane. While on this journey Pao fathers three children from his wife and his long-time mistress. He tries to be a good father. He was a good provider.

Pao isn't such a bad guy, even though he eventually takes Zhang's place as Godfather in Jamaica's Chinatown. He is a strong enforcer of the rules in this organized criminality - almost like the Italian mob. But he is still a compassionate and caring man to his friends, family and people who need his help.

Kathi Harris is the author of the novel Medusa The Beginning. A part of her book is also set in Jamaica.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds interesting! I wonder if it's based on a true story.

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks for the heads up that I wasn't following your blog, Harvee!

Pao sounds like an awesome book. I love Jamaica!

Anya Millar said...

Sounds like an interesting read. Not often you head of a place in the context of marriage vows.

House Millar - Teaser Tuesday


Harvee said...

Bermudaonion: The author's website may have more information:

Matthew and Anya: Thanks for joining the bandwagon!

Tea said...

Must have the book. Teaser really moves me. It's hooked me. Thanx.

kayerj said...

Nice review, this book sounds very good. kaye—the road goes ever ever on

Michael @ The Bookshelf Review said...

Great teaser. Sounds really interesting. New Follower.
Here is my Teaser this week. =]

Paulita said...

I love the insights of reading a book about something you know intimately. Then you get to judge whether the author got it right or not.
I participated in the Bibliophile by the Sea meme first paragraph. Here's Mine

Lola Sharp said...

Hello there. *waves* This is my first visit here and I'm here via Matthew's blog. Nice to 'meet' you. I'm your newest follower. :)

You've intrigued me with this book. A Jamaica setting is ripe with potential.

Have a lovely week,

Staci said...

I honestly had no idea that Chinese people ever ended up in Jamaica, that alone has me wanting to delve into it!!

Frances said...

Hi. First time here. Nice place. I enjoyed your teaser with the review of the same book. Fantastic combo.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I actually love that quote, too. Sometimes that's how I feel about the Ohio Valley.

Booksnyc said...

Thanks for linking this up to the Immigrant Stories Challenge. I never realized that Chinese had immigrated to Jamaica in the 1940's. Thanks for highlighting this interesting book!

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