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The Love Wife

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3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  794 ratings  ·  116 reviews
From the massively talented Gish Jen comes a barbed, 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 ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Knopf (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,387)
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Lee Anne
Carnegie Wong is a first generation Chinese-American, with Blondie (his white wife, so nicknamed by his mother); two adopted daughters, one Chinese, one of unknown Asian descent; and baby Bailey, his biological child, who defies genetics and looks not at all Asian. His mother, Mama Wong, is the Asian fiction cliche (So common, in fact, that there has to be some truth in it. At any rate, I love the cliche, so so be it.) of the pidgin English speaking, passive-aggressive, iron-willed manipulator. ...more
Amanda
The Love Wife follows the trials and tribulations of a racially mixed family--a white wife (Blondie) from an artsy, waspy family; a Chinese husband (Carnegie); two adopted daughters, one Chinese and one of Asian (possibly Chinese or Japanese) descent; and finally, a late-in-life biological child who takes after Blondie in appearance. A complicated, but loving family until Lan, a distant Chinese relative of Carnegie's, arrives--ostensibly to act as a nanny/caretaker for the family. Instead, she s ...more
Beverly
What is good about this book is that it undercuts the cliche of the always wise Chinese eespecially elders. The old mother is a nightmare, controlling her son from beyond the grave. The immigrant relative, Lanlan, plays a game of seducing the daughters of the family with 'Chinese wisdom' while seducing the husband in another way. The multiple narrators work well in the audio version, maybe not so well in print. The narration is heavy with the preteen, 11 year old Wendy, and the reader must suspe ...more
Katie M.
Gish Jen: another HOW HAVE I NEVER READ HER BEFORE NOW? author. And where, please, can I find other excellently-written poignant, painful, funny, and incredibly readable novels that address immigration, transracial marriage, transracial/transnational adoption issues, and first/second generation American dynamics? The constantly shifting points of view can be occasionally tricky to wrap your head around, especially when the narrators change 5 times on a single page, but ultimately the conversatio ...more
Peter Schmidt
Except for some clunky plotting involving Lan's story near the end, this is overall Jen's best novel (and her others are very good!). Ignore lots of the reviews--the main characters are superbly developed and realistically conflicted, not types, and the book's formal experimentation with the narrative mode--it's a collage of internal monologues that do and do not respond to each other, with all of the major characters have a distinctive voice and p o v --succeeds brilliantly. And even more than ...more
Connie Kronlokken
I did like this book, especially the characters. It gave me the feeling that Gish Jen was working from people she knew. But I did feel the final novelistic denouement was a little much to swallow. And I didn't really want it. Perhaps I wanted a longer, richer term for the story.

A problem with the style was that the writing never lets go of the character's existential problems. Their multi-cultural status and their blended family takes up all the space! Even though characters do notice flowers, s
...more
Nicolemauerman
This is the story of the Wong family. A true modern American family, it consists of Carnegie, born in China who comes to the US and adopts a little girl from Asian decent (not sure her families background). He marries Blondie and they adopt a baby from China and then years later have a boy. Carnegie’s mother is the typical overbearing Asian woman whose request in her will is that they bring Lanlan from China to nanny their children. Carnegie has never met Lanlan, but she quickly makes herself at ...more
Suzanne
I have wanted to read Jen Gish since she was the Writer-in-Residence at my alma mater, Boston College in 2010. Sadly I was disappointed in this novel. Many reviewers have commented on the multiple first person narrative the author employs which some found distracting. I actually thought it was an effective literary tool that moved the plot forward. Basically the novel is the story of a blended family created when a caucasian American woman marries a Chinese American man who has surprisingly adop ...more
Samantha Liguori
To Love a Love Wife?

Gish Jen’s "The Love Wife" is a novel based on the multicultural American family and the issues it arises. We meet the Wong family: Carnegie the father, Blondie the mother, Lizzy their rebellious adoptive daughter, Wendy their shy adoptive daughter, and Bailey their biological son. Carnegie, Lizzy, and Wendy are all of Asian descent and Blondie Caucasian with bright blonde hair and blue eyes. Together, they are a family.

The story opens with the expected arrival of one of Carn
...more
Lorena
The Modern Family
The Love wife by Gish Jen published by Vintage Contemporaries in 2005
This book tells the story of a nontraditional American family and how they deal with not only the idiosyncrasies found in any family’s make up, but with the specific difficulties faced by an interracial couple made up of Asian American Carnegie and European American Jane, better known as Blondie. Their family is made up of their one biological baby Bailey and two adopted, Asian daughters Wendy and Lizzy, as wel
...more
Emily
This book was quite interesting and kept me engaged most of the time - although I occasionally got confused by the multiple points of view of the different characters, and by the author's apparent allergy to quotation marks.

Carnegie Wong is a Chinese-American man married to Blondie, an extremely white yet Chinese-speaking woman. Carnegie's Chinese mama does not approve, even after the couple adopts two Chinese children. After Mama Wong's death, they discover that in her will, she has left the an
...more
Jessica
I actually listened to this novel, and the actors were amazing. The entire story seemed like a dialogue of sorts, and it wasn't until I read the reviews here that I realized that the POV was intentionally mixed up and the author employed no quotation marks.

So I can't speak to that confusion. I got who was speaking and when he or she was speaking as the actors changed roles. The actor who portrayed Carnegie was wonderful, his version of Mama Wong so thoughtful and well done.

But as for the story--
...more
Catherine
Another recommended author. And she's great. It took me a chapter or two to get used to her way of structuring dialogue. The novel was sort of like a play: the character's name came before the dialogue, but actually there wasn't always dialogue; the name change signalled a change in point of view, so there could be dialogue (with other characters' voices included) or it could be just the named character's thoughts or spoken words. I didn't describe that very well; it's really not complicated, ju ...more
Johnsergeant
Downloaded from Audible.com

Narrator: Linda Stephens, Ken Leung, Nancy Wu, and more
Publisher: Recorded Books, 2004
Length: 15 hours and 34 min.

Publisher's Summary

Critically acclaimed author Gish Jen is a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee and the person John Updike proclaimed as the young novelist most likely to become his successor. In The Love Wife, Jen poignantly explores the explosive dynamics of a mixed-race modern family.

Chinese-American Carnegie Wong and his Waspy wife Blondie have
...more
Elyon
This book is a brilliant game of hide and seek. I didn't realize the book had part I and II, until I saw the page divider. I didn't even see it until after the last sentence of part I, and after that, how could there not be a part II? It felt as if this whole book had been leading up to the moment where I would figure it out. What this was all about.

I found myself asking, whos book is this? who is the main character?

This book is structured around those questions, the battle of two women who do n
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Jen's third novel (Typical American, Mona in the Promised Land) draws a wide range of opinions, from the glowing to the bitter. One common thread is appreciation for Jen's prose, although it plays like a safety valve in the negative reviews, as if the writers had to find something to like. The multiple first-person narrators provide perspective and richness, as does Jen's bighearted insight into the cultural divide. Yet, even the positive reviews struggle to reconcile the first two thirds of the

...more
Sophia
Really a 3.5 star rating, but I'll give it the extra star for ambition and scope. I didn't find the multiple narrators confusing, except for how it undermined my natural desire to "side" with one character or another in the complicated mess Jen creates for them -- every time you feel one person is being treated unfairly, you switch to another POV and understand why. I loved the frank exploration of identity and adoption and interracial families, even when it made the book a little hard to read, ...more
Joan Roll
The novel addresses important topics such as adoption and Chinese American families as well as marriage and family life and Chinese customs. It is written in a narrative format as told from the voices of the main characters. As a result, all of the characters reveal their thoughts and feelings through their narration of the events as they occur. I did learn many things about Chinese culture and appreciated the blending of families both through adoption and culture. I felt that the transitions in ...more
Keri
Although I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook, it does come with mixed reactions. First, the story did seem to drag at times. Second, I never felt an attachment to any of the characters. Rather, I felt more apathetic toward the characters and didn't feel that sense of urgency to know what would happen next. That said, I really appreciated listening to the different narrators and I did enjoy the author's writing style. She tackled complex issues, such as culturalism, self-identity, and th ...more
Mary Kinietz
Mother-in-law reuested that relative from China come t US hafer her death to live with family. She becomes the "love wife" - or so it seems. Told by son, daughter-in-law, 2 grand-daughters and the love wife.
Rhiana
I wanted to love this book but ended up hating it. The writing is beautiful, the characters well developed, the possibilities of story line are good. Except the author never does develop a story. The characters are developed and explained and over explained for the first 90% of the book. The actual plot and story appear in the last chapter and then the book ends abruptly. Like the author got tired of writing the story and didn't want to finish. In addition, none of the characters end up likable. ...more
Symph Jones
I couldn't do it. Her style, with the repeated back and forth between character viewpoints was too much. Her descriptions rang hollow and false to me. As much as I wanted to hear her story I couldn't get past her style.
Lisa Findley
Gish Jen's writing is marvelously witty, and each character is so clearly their own person that it's as if the writing conceit--that we're reading a sort of transcription or oral history--is true, that these people exist and Jen just happened to write down their every utterance.

I like the meditations on what it means to be American or Chinese, and and how do we make our place in the world in a way that's recognizable not only to ourselves but to our loved ones.

But the last third of the book! Wh
...more
Dutch
I made five attempts at reading this book, borrowing it from the library each time. I could never finish it. It was so clumsily written with different narratives that I just couldn't get in to the rhythm of who was saying what and why. Had this been a normal book, written in a normal format, then I probably would be more forgiving, finishing the book altogether even if I didn't like the storytelling. Very rarely do I not finish books, and in this case, I'll never know if I would have really like ...more
TOTO from Kansas
I Finished the book but was a bit of a STRUGGLE!
The Main characters were NOT very LIKABLE!
Most were Selfish and Rude, but played into the family dynamics !
I felt like I was reading a manuscript rather than a novel.
I do not think I will be looking for this Author's works in the future.
Marcos
An overall, fair and well-executed novel though it's a tad too long and redundant at times. It's the same old story of an immigrant trying to assimilate themselves into American culture, trying to stay within traditional culture; breaking out of tradition; bla bla bla. The reason why I would recommend this novel is that its a light read, funny at times, and actually does not stereotype its Asian characters as one-dimensional archetypes of the foreigner-survivor traits that so many novels about A ...more
Anne Egbert
I almost gave up on this book several times. The format and structure are so unusual it is often difficult to keep track of which character is currently speaking. But I am glad I stayed with it, it turned out to be a good story with lots of twists and turns and a great deal of information about life in China during Communism and the Cultural Revolution and about Chinese Americans now.

Two of my girls claimed this was one of the best books they had ever read, and although I did not like it quite
...more
Inksster
I enjoyed the narration in five voices and many of the literary "tricks." And yet, I found myself waiting to finish the novel. The prose was enjoyable, the plot was generally interesting, but the characters seemed to be a bit caricatured in places. I struggled, in particular, with 11-year-old Wendy's narrations as they seemed to be differentiated from the narrations of the adults only by adding the word "like" at random. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read, and the explorations of the concept ...more
Colleen
I'm on page 57 of this book, and as an official member of the Clean Plate Book Club, I've decided to stop reading it. I'm just not connecting with it. I don't like the way it's written (five different narrators--I have to keep checking back to see who's "on"). I don't care about the characters. It's boring. The story is supposed to be "Chinese mother hates her daughter-in-law and attempts to control her son from the grave," but where is it? I haven't reached that story yet. So, I'm stopping and ...more
Mara
Mar 24, 2008 Mara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mara by: Nancy
Once I adjusted to the moving narration style of writing, I thoroughly enjoyed the dymanic story telling from the vantage point of the entire Wong clan. Gish Jen offers amazing insight into what constitutes family from both a biological and a racial standpoint, with the shades in between related to external appearances and personalized interpretation and management of difference. Highly nuanced tale with many twists and turns along the way that were amusing, touching, and redeeming to the human ...more
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Gish Jen grew up in New York, where she spoke more Yiddish than Chinese. She has been featured in a PBS American Masters program on the American novel. Her distinctions also include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Fulbright fellowship, and a Radcliffe Institute fellowship. She was awarded a Lannan Literary Prize in 1999 and received a Harold and Mildred Str ...more
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