Lee Anne's Reviews > The Love Wife

The Love Wife by Gish Jen
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May 05, 09

Read in May, 2009

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. After her death from Alzheimer's, Carnegie, through a distant relative in China, discovers her will, which requests he bring over Lanlan, a middle-aged Chinese woman who has had a terrible life. Lanlan is to serve as nanny to the children. Will Carnegie fall in love with Lanlan? What do you think?

If you judge this book from the blurbs on the cover and inside, it is the greatest thing since War and Peace. It's not that amazing. It does have an unusual writing style: the characters alternate in telling the reader the story, almost as if they are being interviewed. However, the plot takes some rapid and crazy turns at about chapter 14, and the book never recovers. Whole characters (Gabriela, Blondie's New Age, midlife crisis friend; the Bailey family) are left with no resolution. I feel like Gish Jen was going for something too big here, a swing and a miss.

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