From the talented Gish Jen comes a funny, moving, and stylistically dazzling new novel about the elusive nature of kinship.
The Wongs describe themselves as a “half half” family, but the actual fractions are more complicated, given Carnegie’s Chinese heritage, his wife Blondie’s WASP background, and the various ethnic permutations of their adopted and biological children.
Into this new American family comes a volatile new member. Lanlan is Carnegie’s Mainland Chinese relative, a tough, surprisingly lovely survivor of the Cultural Revolution, who comes courtesy of Carnegie’s mother’s will. Is Lanlan a very good nanny, a heartless climber, or a posthumous gift from a formidable mother who never stopped wanting her son to marry a nice Chinese girl?
What happens as Carnegie and Blondie try to incorporate the ambiguous new arrival into their already complicated family is touchingly, brilliantly, intricately told. Rich in insight, buoyed by humor, The Love Wife is a witty, sharp-eyed, compassionate, and a hugely satisfying work.
“A big story about families and identity and race and the American Dream. . . Jen’s most ambitious and emotionally ample work yet.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The Love Wife shares all the wonderful attributes of Jen’s other books but is deeper, richer, darker, far more complex and mature. . . by far the most satisfying and enjoyable novel I have read this year.” —Susan Miron, The Miami Herald
“It’s hard to find a novel that seems, at once, so funny and so touching that one really is dumbstruck with admiration…I read the book in three sittings and plan to start it all over again soon…” —Jay Parini
“Gish Jen’s characters are so alive that one can hardly call them ‘characters’… Here is a novel so insightful, so satisfying, that it ought never to have ended.” — Cynthia Ozick
This book piqued my interest from page one. The author’s style of shifting narrators provides a shift in perspective which made me feel like I had become intimately involved with the characters–as if I had the opportunity to read their journal entries.
The Love Wife tells the story of the new American family. The cast of characters include Carnegie, a Chinese American, his mother Mama Wong, his “midwestern white” wife Blondie, their three children–2 adopted Chinese girls and one biological boy–and Mama Wong’s distant relative from mainland China, Lan, who flies in like Mary Poppins after Mama Wong’s death …
Gish Jen brings up the ever prominent question: what makes an American family? Well today, an American family can be everything and anything and Gish Jen clearly demonstrates this sentiment.
Although this book is fiction, Gish Jen’s knowledge of popular culture, family interactions, history, and attention to detail make the reader believe that she is talking about your next door neighbor.
This book is a winner–you won’t want to put it down and you will laugh out loud many times as you become engrossed in the story.