Cover via Goodreads.
Rating: 3/5 stars.
Norwegian Wood is unlike any book I’ve read. It tells the story of Toru, a quiet and uncouth college student who is in love with Naoko, a beautiful and withdrawn woman. Their relationship is ensconced by their best friend’s death that took place a few years prior to the beginning of this novel, and because of that Naoko retreats further and further away from Toru. He finds solace in Midori, a sexually passionate and powerfully independent individual, though he knows his feelings for both of them cannot be contained forever. Continue reading
Cover via Goodreads.
Rating: 4/5 stars.
Those of you who read this blog are most likely aware that my relationship with my mother is not all bouncing bunnies and beautiful butterflies. As an American-born son raised with traditionally Asian standards, my childhood has been filled with conflicts resulting in screaming matches and bountiful tears. So reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan was quite the vicarious experience – though I am not Chinese nor a daughter, I could connect to several of the themes that ran throughout the novel.
The interweaving vignettes that comprise the book are too intricate to explain completely without writing a long review, but the book is basically about four Chinese women who immigrate to San Francisco. They have all endured great hardship but are each hopeful about their futures as well as their daughters’ futures. Through sixteen short stories we are able to view major events in their lives that have shaped their mindsets, their worlds, and their relationships with one another. Continue reading
Rating: 4.5/5 stars.
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to America, they are forced to reside in a cheap Brooklyn apartment with no heating and a copious amount of mice and roaches. To survive their horrible living conditions and financial struggles Kimberly works with her mother at a sweatshop in the afternoon while attending school in the daytime. Despite her initial inability to speak English, Kimberly works her way up to the top of the class in order to secure a better life. But when she meets Matt, a compassionate boy who also works at the sweatshop, she’ll choose between everything she’s worked so ambitiously to achieve and her first love.
I’m not a stranger when it comes to immigrant experiences – my mother and father were both immigrants, and the stories they share with me motivate me to work harder. But seriously, cockroaches? I remember one dreadful description of when Kimberly could feel the mice racing across her body as she slept… gross. Yet, even though she’s not allowed to have friends over and spends all of her time studying and working, Kimberly doesn’t whine and give up. She does everything in her power to succeed, and she does. That’s one reason why I fell in love with her voice.
That’s not to say she’s an over-achieving robot. Kimberly, as well as the other characters in this book, are relatable – Kimberly herself succumbs to peer pressure and other adolescent issues. I was rooting for her and felt personal satisfaction whenever she aced a test or rose above her cultural confusion.
My only complaint is that some of the romance that didn’t involve Matt seemed unnecessary to the plot. I understand that it was included to show how Kimberly is just like any other girl, but I doubt she would’ve had time to hang out with guys after school when her mother needed her at the sweat shop.
Overall, a 4.5. Jean Kwok has crafted a fantastic debut novel that portrays the struggle of a Chinese girl growing up in the US.