May 3, 2022, Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: rom com, family drama, contemporary, multicultural
Gracie Reed wants her mother to live in more expensive senior care facility, but although she has several jobs, she can't afford the facility she has in mind for her mom. When famous Chinese actors Sam Yao and Wei Fangli visit Toronto to star in a play, and Gracie is discovered to be a doppelganger for Wei, they offer her $150,000 to act as a stand in for Wei for two months in her many public appearances.
Gracie accepts the offer, somewhat reluctantly, but happy to leave a sexually harassing boss at her current job. How she learns to behave and act like Wei Fangli is central to this romantic drama, which involves the handsome Sam Yao.
A humorous romance, the book focuses on the personalities of Gracie, Sam, and Wei Fangli, their differences making this novel much more interesting. Themes of duty versus career goals, family expectations, abandonment and mental health, are also central themes in the book.
I gave The Stand-In a solid five stars, for the plot complexities, character development, the romance, and the social topics it covers.
Family drama, suspense, multicultural interest, immigrant fiction
A novel about an immigrant family from China who are unable to support their family in the U.S. and forced by circumstances to give up their first daughter, Sylvie, to her grandmother and cousin who live in the Netherlands.
Sylvie is reunited with her real family years later in NYC at age nine, but returns to the Netherlands some 20 years ahead when her grandmother dies. Sylvie's younger sister Amy then travels from the U.S. to Holland to find her sister, who has mysteriously disappeared on that trip.
Immigrant culture and conflict, Chinese culture and family norms, anti-Asian sentiment in the Netherlands, and other crucial elements of society combine to define Sylvie Lee's disappearance.
A moving picture of family dynamics, love and desire, which all reminded me of a Greek tragedy taking place in the two cultures - Asian and European.
Letters to Singapore by Kelly Kaur
Published May 1, 2022; Stonehouse Original
Genre: epistolary novel, contemporary fiction, multicultural interest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Simran avoids an arranged marriage in Singapore when she gets her parents' approval to first attend the University of Calgary, Canada for an undergraduate degree. While in Calgary, Simran's views and experience broaden, so much so that she is delighted to be offered a scholarship to get her Master's Degree after graduation. But her mother writes that it's time for Simran to come home, back to Singapore and her family's traditional way of life.
This is an easily read epistolary novel, with the story of Simran in Calgary revealed in back and forth letters to her friends and relatives in Singapore. I enjoyed learning about life in an Indian community in Singapore and the contrast of Simran's growing love for her life in Calgary.
The novel seems to be partly autobiographical as the author, Kelly Kaur, left her island home in Southeast Asia to study in Calgary. She brings an interesting perspective of an international student first vising and living in North America.
I gave this four enthusiastic stars.
Thanks to Wiley Saichek for a review copy of this book.
Publication: October 4, 2022; World Editions
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
China: the past as seen in the grandparents, the present as seen in the parents, and the future as seen in the children who don't understand.
I had the impression of young people wanting to understand their grandparents who went through the Cultural Revolution, and their parents, who are in the midst of a new capitalist-minded China, struggling to get ahead in life, leaving behind the traditional way of life of the old China.
Young people have to deal with grandparents they don't understand, parents who leave them behind to search for a future, or divorced parents who go separate ways and let the children be taken care of primarily by the grandparents. The stories are sometimes raw and everything sordid or good is shown to the reader.
I think this novel is so specific to time and place that the readers for which it was intended, the people in China, will get much more from it than readers in another culture, reading a translated version, and trying to understand the context and complete underlying message.
I can see why this author is popular in her home country.
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