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Love Wife

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  942 Ratings  ·  135 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
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Recorded Books (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30)
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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
Jun 30, 2008 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2009 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 12, 2009 Katie M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Feb 18, 2017 Jgknobler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adored this funny, insightful and very forthright novel about a Chinese-American man married to a white woman; their adopted and biological children; the shadow of the man's ambitious, no-nonsense and hypercritical mother; and what happens when a native Chinese woman comes to live with them. It has an unusual structure of alternating viewpoints which I initially found annoying but grew to appreciate.
Be Astengo
A story with a crazy melange of every permutation of Chinese American: older immigrant, American born, adopted girl, mixed race, new immigrant. It's a messy story of old and new values and finding your way in a family and identity in family and society. The tale is at times humorous and alarming. Gish Jen tells her stories with uncensored honesty and a bit of exposed ugly thrown in for good measure. A bit long but entertaining.
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
Sep 13, 2010 Lorena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
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
Marie Hew
Feb 27, 2017 Marie Hew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man...families are screwy in a humorous way. People try and try as they might to not mess up their families, but sometimes the mess is part of he master plan. I never saw the end coming!

Extremely enjoyable read! I really like how the story is narrated by all 5 main characters. It gives you a glimpse into each person's perspective on the overall storyline in a pretty quick paced manner.
Peter Goodman

“The Love Wife,” by Gish Jen (Knopf, 2004; audiobook, read by various narrators). A wonderful book, complex, multi-layered, funny, melancholy, acute. Chinese-American Carnegie Wong is married to WASP Jane Bailey (called Blondie by his demanding, commanding Chinese mother). They have two adopted Asian daughters, teenage Lilly (from China) and 8-year-old Wendy (ancestry not clear), and one natural-born son, Bailey. Mama Wong hates Blondie, and arranges for the family to bring a Chinese woman named
Jul 23, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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--
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
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
Downloaded from

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
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
Oct 12, 2015 QueenAmidala28 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to QueenAmidala28 by: Online bookclub
Actually I would give this book a 3.5/5. Obviously I liked it enough to come back to it a year later.

I will say that I would not have kept reading it past the first few chapters if I hadn't switched to audio book as the dialogue is different than normal. It was also more entertaining now that I heard a Chinese accent for Mama Wong and a heavy but formal dialect for Lin.

The characters were unbalanced yet entertaining (Lizzy and Wendy were typical teenagers and Jen did a good job of putting in li
Dec 09, 2013 Elyon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chinese
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
Apr 11, 2010 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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

Peter Schmidt
Jul 11, 2014 Peter Schmidt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2012 Keri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous, audio-book
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
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
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
Sep 23, 2009 Rhiana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2013 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very different from the other Gish Jen books I've read. The others have serious topics (primarily the American immigrant experience) but told in a humorous manner. Also the other books were written in the traditional dialogue manner. The Love Wife is very serious about the immigrant experience, interracial families, foreign adoption, cultural norms and traditions. Additionally the writing style is unique: it is first person narrative but the narrator constantly changes among the ch ...more
Lisa Findley
Feb 11, 2012 Lisa Findley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 30, 2016 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book written quite like this one. It was almost like sitting in a room with all these people talking at the same time, or like a documentary where they jump from interview to interview. At first I enjoyed the writing style, but in the middle, I just got tired. The ending was much more readable.
I enjoyed the character building and found the story interesting,though perhaps a bit disjointed. I didn’t like Lan in the least. I always get disgusted with stories where perfectly go
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
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
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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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