28 October 2009

Short Review: The Love Wife by Gish Jen

The Love Wife
is Gish Jen's third novel. It examines the relationships among an All-American white woman and her Chinese-American husband, her mother-in-law, and her children. Take a look at the publisher's summary:

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.
I read this novel in the summer of 2006; thus I don't remember the details. According to my reading notes, the characters are well developed, and the plot held my attention. However, Blondie is a bit too stereotypically WASP-ish and is not very assertive, which lessened my sympathy for her. On the other hand, the dynamics of the intersecting cultures and generations were interesting. I noted that the ending left me hanging, and not in a particularly good way.

When I was writing this post last night, I discovered that there was a Reading Group Guide for the novel. I looked over the questions and realized that The Love Wife would probably make a great book club choice. Jen brings up a number of interesting issues that could generate good discussions. I originally rated the novel a B-, but as a book club choice, I would consider it a solid B or even a B+.

The cover shows the 2004 Random House edition. (Source: bought; see review policy)

The Love Wife at an Indie
The Love Wife at Powell's
The Love Wife at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, I get a small percent.

Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's L.


JoAnn 10/28/09, 7:34 AM  

I enjoyed the audio version but, since it's been several years, don't remember very much about it.

Snowbell 10/28/09, 7:46 AM  

The letter L is producing some good books! It sounds like one I will like!

Julie P. 10/28/09, 8:16 AM  

So funny about your grade changing. When I started reviewing books, I realized that my grades are higher when I have to "analyze" the book. I definitely think you don't have to love a book for it to make a great book club read!

Nise' 10/28/09, 9:30 AM  

It is a great idea to have made a few notes after reading a book. I am like you, many books I don't remember much about a few years down the road.

S. Krishna 10/28/09, 9:58 AM  

I'd never heard of this book, but I might have to give it a try. Thanks for the review!

bermudaonion 10/28/09, 12:44 PM  

I'm amazed that you kept such detailed notes. I think it would be interesting to explore the differences in the couple's cultures.

Vicki 10/28/09, 1:49 PM  

Sounds very interesting. I've never read Gish Jen. I think I'll put this on my WL!

Thanks for playing!

Meg 10/28/09, 1:51 PM  

This one is totally new to me, but sounds very interesting! I love anything dealing with family dynamics and identity. Thanks for the intro to it! :) And I'm impressed you make/keep notes, too; I'm terrible about that...

Margot at Joyfully Retired 10/28/09, 2:10 PM  

I like stories about inter-cultural families. This one sounds very interesting. You are to be admired for all those book notes you've kept over the years. I envy you that collection.

kaye 10/28/09, 10:19 PM  

talk about an interfering mother in law. She has a long reach. If you want to wander down my road I’m home.

me again 10/28/09, 10:57 PM  

Never heard of the author or the book, but looks like one I might enjoy. Thanks for the book recommendation!
My L book is HERE

stacybuckeye 10/28/09, 11:12 PM  

I'm impressed that you can remember so much about a book you read years ago. Until I started my blog, I did not take any notes and relying on my memory is not always so fruitful!

Nicole 10/29/09, 1:21 AM  

I read this pre-blog and while I remember enjoying the story, it hasn't stood out. I barely remember Blondie.

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