Monday, October 10, 2011


Carnegie Wong doesn't speak Chinese, his mother having raised him to be as American as possible. He and his wife Janie, dubbed Blondie by her Chinese mother-in-law, have three children. Lizzy, a foundling of unknown Asian descent ("soup du jour") is a rebellious teenager. Wendy is 9 and was adopted from China. Bailey is Blondie and Carnegie's infant biological son who is miraculously as blond as his mother. When Carnegie's mother dies, her unofficial will requires that a female relative, Lan, be brought over from China to live with the family. Her presence upsets the blended balance that has heretofore existed in the Wong household. I had two big problems with the book. One is that I did not like Lan, who hits the pet goat with a pail and almost scalds Bailey with too hot soup and bath water. I fully understand that my dislike of her is cultural. Freedom is a foreign concept to her. What she really appreciates is status, and her perception of her role in the family is skewed, partly by her separate living space, intended to provide privacy, and partly by her duties as nanny. Secondly, the book showcases every member of the family, except Bailey, as a first-person narrator, in snippets of varying length. This device annoyed me, requiring me to constantly double-back to double-check who is talking. Plus, each narrator often quotes other family members, adding another layer of confusion. I felt as though I were reading a transcript of a panel discussion or an unnatural dinner conversation.

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