Friday, November 4, 2011
THE CONCUBINE'S CHILDREN (DENISE CHONG)
To me, China was what was left behind when the boat carrying my grandmother, pregnant with my mother, docked in Vancouver. China was the soil underfoot in the photograph of the two sisters who, as I thought then, would never meet the third, my mother. China was where you’d find yourself if you dug a hole deep enough to come out the other side of the Earth.
THE CONCUBINE’S CHILDREN is the story of a family cleaved in two for the sake of a father’s dream. There’s Chan Sam, who left an “at home” wife in China to earn a living in “Gold Mountain” North America. There’s May-ying, the wilful, seventeen-year-old concubine he bought, sight unseen, who laboured in tea houses of west coast Chinatowns to support the family he would have in Canada, and the one he had in China. It was the concubine’s third daughter, the author’s mother, who unlocked the past for her daughter, whose curiosity about some old photographs ultimately reunited a family divided for most of the last century.”
This was an exceptional work of family history that was well researched and well written. The story was utterly amazing, gripping and held my attention from the first page on. It took a great deal of courage for Denise Chong to pen this fictional memoir of her family and she made the story come alive against the backdrop of two widely different countries. It had a narrative flow that captured the essence of the truth.
This was an intriguing journey that crossed all cultural boundaries. I’ll be keeping this book as part of my permanent collection. Excellent!