From the highly praised author of Mona in the Promised Land and Who's Irish -a generous, funny, explosive novel about the new "half-half" American family.Here is Carnegie Wong, second-generation Chinese American warm heart and funny guy. Here is his WASP wife, the delicious "za-za-vavoomy" Blondie. Here are their two adopted Asian daughters, and their half-half bio son. And here is Mama Wong, Carnegie's no-holds-barred mother, who, eternally opposed to his marriage, has arranged from her grave for a mainland Chinese relation to come look after the kids. Is this woman, as Carnegie claims, a nanny Or is she, as Blondie fears, something else What happens as Carnegie and Blondie try to incorporate the ambiguous new arrival into their already complicated lives is touchingly, brilliantly, intricately told.Powerfully evoking the contemporary American family in all its fragility and strength, Gish Jen has given us her most exuberant and accomplished novel.
A meddlesome Chinese-American mother bequeaths a Chinese nanny to her ambivalent son and his big blonde wife in this darkly comic fairy tale about cultural assimilation, biological destiny and domestic warfare. In her earlier novels (Typical American; etc.) and short stories, Jen established a sort of Asian Richter scale, registering the culture shock of new and not-so-new Chinese immigrants and their complicated, irrepressible families. Here she focuses on the racially mixed Wong family: Carnegie; his older wife, Janie (dubbed "Blondie" by Carnegie's hilariously awful mother); two adopted Asian daughters (the difficult teenager Lizzy and the hypersensitive Wendy); and a "bio" baby son who looks disturbingly non-Asian. When Carnegie's mother dies after a long bout with Alzheimer's, the Wongs are shocked to learn that she has arranged for an extended visit by a female relative from the Mainland, the unmarried, mysterious Lan. A year older than Blondie, whose "dewlap" and resemblance to an "Aeroflot" are beginning to alarm Carnegie, Lan seems quaint, "plainish" and self-effacing; soon her ambiguous status, passive-aggressiveness and blooming beauty threaten to destabilize the already rocky Wong marriage. Not only does she captivate Carnegie, who is dismayed and fascinated by his own rediscovered Chinese identity, she also preys on the Wong girls' insecurity as Blondie's nonbiological daughters. What threatens to turn into a standard evil-nanny plot takes on unexpected depth as Jen captures the not always likable Wong family with her trademark compassion, laser-like attention to detail and quirky wit. Though the shifting first-person narratives sometimes come off as awkwardly stagey (particularly Carnegie's, with comments like "I was entranced by the eternal return of villanelles-that deathless morph"), this novel has a robust, lived-in quality that makes you miss it when it's over. Agent, Maxine Groffsky. 11-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
September 13, 2004
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Love Wife by Gish Jen
BLONDIE / The day Lan came, you could still say whose family this was--Carnegie's and mine.
We had three children. Two beautiful Asian girls--or should I say Asian American--Wendy, age nine, and Lizzy, age fifteen, both adopted; and one bio boy, Bailey, age thirteen months. Carnegie's ancestry being Chinese, and mine European, Bailey was half half, as they say--or is there another term by now With less mismatch in it--'half half' having always spoken to me more of socks than of our surprise child, come to warm the lap of our middle years.
Our family was, in any case, an improvisation. The new American family, our neighbor Mitchell once proclaimed, tottering drunk up our deck stairs. But for Carnegie and me, it was simply something we made. Something we chose.
His mother, Mama Wong, thought this unnatural.
The trouble with you people is not enough periods, she liked to say. You can say I think like Chinese, but I tell you. A child should grow up, say this is my mother, period. This is my father, period. Otherwise that family look like not real.
Always good about assigning blame, she blamed the family on me.
I know Blondie. Everything a nut do, she do too. She is not even a real nut, like her friend Gabriela. She is only try-to-be-nut.
To which my friend Gabriela would say: Janie. Your name is Janie, I can't believe you let Mama Wong call you Blondie all these years. And Carnegie too! That is like the definition of low self-esteem.
I tried to tell her that it was my choice--that I liked nicknames. I tried to tell her that she could think of Blondie as my married name, as if I'd changed my first name instead of my last. For that was the way I was--or thought I was, before Lan came. An open person. A flexible person. Had I not been voted Most Sympathetic to Others in high school
CARNEGIE / Our very own Blondie had, in her day, held the Kleenex for the homecoming queen.
But, whatever. Gabriela minded the Blondie bit far more than she minded being called, herself, a nut. She being the first to admit that she had gone back to the earth two or three times, maybe more. Also that she had spent years finding herself without much progress.