Do you know what makes me happy? When I discover a gem of a book by a new author. “Girl in Translation’ was exactly that for me.
I grabbed this book from the new release shelf at the library on an impulse. I liked the cover and I enjoy reading of Asian cultures and immigrant experiences. This novel, from new author Jean Kwok, was the compelling and wonderful story of Kimberly Chang and her mother as they immigrate to America from Hong Kong and work to assimilate into the new culture while supporting themselves through work at a sweat shop. Though they rely on the “assistance” of Kimberly’s aunt and uncle for a place to live and a job, their life is pretty miserable, as they work (illegally) doing piece work for pay (illegally) and live (illegally) in a vacant apartment with no heat or hot water through New York City’s winters. Kimberly, a brilliant student – though only in sixth grade, works to learn English and do well in school, with the goal of getting an education and getting a better life for her and her mother. Afternoons and evenings she works at her aunt’s sweat shop (as I mentioned illegally) with her mother. There she meets a young Chinese boy, Matt, who becomes her friend and first love.
Kimberly and her mother are tenacious and hard-working. Living in these deplorable conditions (supplied by the “helpful” aunt) while they strive to make a better life, I couldn’t help but be angered by what they had to endure. After Kimberly is accepted to a prestigious private school on full scholarship, things start to change for them. Eventually, she is accepted to Yale, though this causes her to have to make a heart-breaking decision.
I loved this book. It reminded me of a Lisa See novel (one of my fave authors!) in the style of Gish Jen (another awesome writer!). I love reading of Asian culture and tradition and I always appreciate the immigrant experience as I am a grand-daughter of immigrants. I couldn’t read this book without cheering for Kimberly to succeed. I’m so glad I picked it up, and I look forward to more great books from Jean Kwok!
I have attached a You Tube link (hopefully it works okay – I’m not the most technically minded) of Ms. Kwok discussing her novel:
Well, I can make this review short, even though this audiobook was not! I picked up this book on CD at the library to play in my car. It is 16 (sixteen) disks long (or perhaps I should write looooong). It tells the story of Kate, an attractive, single (recently widowed) woman who illegally adopts a baby, Jon, through her employer and moves to Oregon to raise him and have a private life. Fifteen years later, Jon’s father discovers his existence, as does his grandfather, and the race is on to find him as heir to an empire. Jon, meanwhile, is a typical teenager with a large dose of ESP, apparently inherited from his father.
That’s the gist of the story. I thought it would be entertaining, maybe thrilling, with suspense. Instead it was loooooong. It read as part thriller and large part romance. A huge amount of time was spent retracing Jon’s father’s life (Daegan O’Rourke) as he grew up and then hooked up with his cousin (yikes!) to create Jon. Way way too much time was devoted, in my opinion, to this (almost seven disks if I remember correctly). And let me be honest: I did not need to read so many descriptions of women’s breasts. TMI.
I lost interest in this story and then was not in favor of the outcome (SPOILER ALERT!) as Daegan and Kate hook up and get together (more descriptions of breasts). Jon is kidnapped and retrieved and everyone lives happily ever after.
Let me sum my opinion up in one word: awful.
And, furthermore, I couldn’t stand the narrator’s voice on the tape. It sounded like a voiceover for a commercial — a commercial where the person was pretending to make a commercial (know what I mean?).
The thing is – Lisa Jackson is actually a talented writer. And I know she is a HUGE seller, so perhaps it’s just me who had problems with this book. Or perhaps it was because it was an audiobook. Or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for the 3 weeks I listened to it. I will probably try her again (deja vu!) but I will read the next one.
Comments appreciated if others of you have read/listened to this or others stories by Lisa Jackson!
I picked up this little novel (149 pages) on the new release shelf at the library. It looked interesting: a true story about a wedding that was allowed to occur at Auschwitz in WWII. I was drawn into the story of Rudi and Marga, their family and friends, as various survivors narrated the story of their meeting, courtship, and actual wedding at Auschwitz where Rudi was being held as a political prisoner and agitator. My challenge in this story was that the voice of the first-person narrator kept changing without notice. At one point it was Marga’s sister, at another, Rudi’s son from his first wife, at another Rudi and Marga’s child, at still another a friend from the camp. I at times had to stop and re-read once I realized it was a new storyteller. However, that said, I loved the approach of different voices and different points of view telling this story. Of course, for some insane reason I thought this story would have a happy ending. (Spoiler Alert!!) I should have realized that if “Auschwitz” is in the title, and the story is true, the chances are slim that the end is happy. That said, I enjoyed this short novel and even though the ending was sad, the hope and love portrayed in this novel, along with the tenacity of the prisoners and their belief in love flourishing in the midst of such great evil….well, that made this story shine with a positive light for me.