Books set in Canada, Christian Fiction, Feel-Good, Fiction, Oke-Janette, Romantic Fiction

#679 They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette OkeThey Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

Cassie comes from a well-to-do Canadian family living in Montreal. Her father is a doctor, who is constantly having young and upcoming doctors over to the house. Cassie is seventeen and is becoming marriage minded. It’s not easy speaking to the young men, but Cassie does on occasion. Her mother begins to teach her how to cook and how to sew so she will know how to be a wife.

One of the doctors returns multiple times, but it’s not the doctor Cassie expects. This one is rather plain, but not ugly, and has a rather ordinary name, Sam Smith. After Cassie turns eighteen, her father says she can make her own choices about having gentleman callers. When Sam turns up in the parlor, Cassie is a bit surprised, but goes along. She finds that Sam is easy to talk to and she enjoys his company. The two spend more and more time together and ultimately, decide to get married.

Sam goes away on his residency, but writes to Cassie and lets her know his plans. He wants to go back out west, where he grew up. His mother died there because there was no doctor and he vowed to return home and be the doctor his town needed. The news is a bit devastating to Cassie, but she made up her mind to follow Sam wherever he went. They get married in a small ceremony and then head west. The journey was not at all what Cassie expected.

They soon make it to their new home and life starts. It’s difficult for Cassie, but she soon makes a friend of the pharmacist’s wife and is taught that anyone can have a personal relationship with God. This is news to Cassie and it makes her life much easier. Soon Cassie begins having babies, one after the other, until there are five. These years are full of energy and responsibility for Cassie, but that’s not all the responsibilities Cassie has. She learns to do a little doctoring here and there. She even helps Sam out at the clinic when he breaks his arm. She helps Sam out so much that someone dubs her Mrs. Doc.

Time passes on. The children grow up. Cassie continues to doctor neighborhood children and animals. Ultimately, Cassie and Sam grow old, but their love is still as good as ever. Cassie reaches the stage of life where her children want to care for her instead of her caring for them, but Cassie knows all things have their time.

What I liked

I’ve read this book several times and I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always found it sweet. Cassie and Sam do not have this glamorous relationship. They’re not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or Kanye and Kim; they’re this simple couple, very smart couple, but simple. They don’t have fervent, rapturous infatuation in their relationship. They love one another, a lot, and are each other’s best friends. Those are the kinds of relationships I admire. My grandparents have been married sixty-four years and that’s the kind of relationship they have. They’re not making grand romantic gestures to one another. They have lived life together, both the good and the bad, and they’re friends. Their relationship is deep-seated in each other.

I think we should all strive to have relationships like Cassie’s and Sam’s, or like my grandparents’. There is a lot to be said for someone who treats you like a partner and a person. Sam never looked down on Cassie; he knew she was smart; he knew she was determined. He made her feel respected and loved, and that, matters more than being super handsome/beautiful/hot/thin, or having lots of money, or buying a dozen roses every week; just insert whatever high relationship standard you want in there. Being a good person is important in a relationship. Being a good person in a relationship with another good person is where the apex of a relationship is.

What I didn’t like

There isn’t really anything I didn’t like. The book is a big sad in parts, but overall, it’s a great read.


So sweet.

Weigh In

Would you leave your family and travel to a far-away land for a relationship?

If your spouse asked you to leave your family and live in the wilderness, would you?

Books set in Canada, Fiction, Historical Fiction, McKay-Ami, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary

#668 The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Birth House by Ami McKayThe Birth House by Ami McKay

Dora was the first Rare girl born in a long time, to top that off, she was born with the caul over her head. In a community of superstitious sailors, the caul would have fetched a lot of money, but the local midwife, was told to keep special charge of it. Dora grew up being a bit of an outcast. She was the only girl in an entire family tree of boys. She looked different. She bore more traces of her Micmac ancestors than any of her other family members. She was a strange girl, with her head always in books. Some say she witched a cow.

Time passed, and Dora grew up. She spent more and more time with the local midwife, affectionately referred to as Miss B by those who liked her, others said her entire name with a bit of disdain. She was from away. Some considered her a witch, with all her herbs and potions.

When Dora was a teenager, she assisted with her first birth. The idea was to pass the tradition on to Dora, but times were changing. Doctors wanted to deliver babies. A new maternity home opened up in a nearby town, complete with beds, ether, and forceps. None of this pleased Miss B who thought childbirth was a woman’s thing and a natural thing to top that off.

Dora ends up getting married, but it is not all it has been made out to be. Dora has to practice midwifery, almost as a secret. So called science is encroaching on a world that had been around a lot longer and traditional ways are being outlawed and made suspicious. Dora is determined to continue the traditions she has learned.

What I liked

I like books about midwifery. They are always so interesting. The entire practice of midwifery is fascinating, but has a fraught history. Midwives have been called witches and even burned at the stake. Doctors wanted them gone.

This book is fiction, but catches a very real situation that happened around the time period. Doctors wanted women to have their babies in hospitals and birthing centers, not at home, with the midwife, who used natural herbs for things and, of course, not at home with the midwife who didn’t have a fancy certificate to say that she knew what she was doing.

Dora is an interesting character. Miss B is also an interesting character. How does a Cajun woman end up in Nova Scotia during this time period? There are more mysteries about Miss B that are never answered. The mystery makes her an interesting person.

What I didn’t like

Right, so, I don’t have a lot of faith in western medicine. It’s wonderful for broken bones, but it’s absolutely awful for childbirth and preventative care. This book is a great example of how western medicine is screwed up. Doctors wanted to put women to sleep and cut them open rather than let them take their time with doing something their bodies were made to do. They wanted to charge a lot of money for it to boot. Why let the local midwife deliver a baby in exchange for some eggs and vegetables when you could charge a lot more in actual cash? How do you get people to abandon something they had been doing a long time? You villainize it, that’s how.

It’s so underhanded to poison someone’s profession, but it’s even more underhanded to poison a profession that people need and is relatively safe, compared to what you’re trying to replace it with. This fight is still going on. This book was set close to a hundred years ago now, but this same exact fight still wages in the world. Couldn’t people just accept it and agree to be friends?

Dora, while interesting, seems like your typical headstrong female lead. Young lady, you will do XYZ. Young lady says, “No, I will not.”


This was a great piece of historical fiction about a fight we’ve been waging a long time.

Weigh In

Is it wrong of society and science to replace a technique or tradition that works and people trust, just because it has another way of doing it?

Why do you think traditional methods cannot live alongside modern methods?

Atwood-Margaret, Books set in Canada, Fiction, Mystery

#583 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

A nameless woman’s father is lost and she goes out in the wilderness of Canada to find him. There is some civilization there, but not much. Her boyfriend and another couple come with her on the journey. A boat takes them to the island where her father had his cabin. It was the cabin she used to live in, but she had since moved away. A dark past haunts her. She was married and had a baby, but this fact becomes disputed as the story moves on.

She thinks her father is alive, somewhere, maybe watching from the brush. She tries to find clues as to where he may have gone. There are cryptic drawings that don’t make a lot of sense on a littered desk.

The relationships she has with her boyfriend and friends begins to change. Her boyfriend isn’t really someone she has feelings for. Her friends do not have the perfect marriage. Secret after secret seems to leak out in the wilderness. Ultimately, she chooses to be feral. The world has too much noise. She’s too connected to the land. The loss of her seemingly unloving father is too great.

What I liked

I love Margaret Atwood and I am always happy to read one of her books. This book does have an interesting mystery involved. Where did her father go and why? That’s not all though, she unravels mysteries about herself. Why does she not seem to feel certain emotions? What really happened in her past?

Sometimes a good book is a book that does not answer all of your questions. At the end of this book, I was not sure of her fate, or her past. Did things really happen how she said they happened? She is obviously suffering some mental issues. This book shows the reader how a person can fall apart and doubt themselves.

What I didn’t like

This book was not an easy read and it took me much longer to read it than it should have. The time estimate said 2-3 hours, but it took me longer than that and I’m a fast reader.

The main character concerns me. She obviously has some issues, but she ends up being left to her own devices. How will things turn out for her? How will she live? Will she degrade further than she has? I think it’s unfortunate that she unraveled to the extent that she did.


Wild Woman

Weigh In

Do you ever daydream of living out in the wild?

Could you make it if you did have to live in the wild?

Books set in Canada, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Mystery

#422 Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacdonaldFall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald

Notice the American Horror Story style font used by this book cover. It’s a little strange, but this book predates the show, so you really can’t be creeped out by a font… or can you? This book has its own form of creepiness, which makes perfect sense because it’s an Oprah Book Club book. Let me clue you in on a little something, Oprah Book Club books are often very strange, and creepy, but they’re not creepy in the sense that you’re considering creepy.

I’ve read this book a couple of times before. I’ve owned it for quite a few years now. This is a multi-generational book. We will follow one family as the generations progress. We get to see how the initial actions taken by the first characters affect all the other characters that come into being as they are born or encounter the story line.

James is our first character. He’s left home and his mother is dead. He tries his luck at being a piano tuner. He calls at a prominent Lebanese family’s home, where he is entranced by their twelve year-old daughter. He’s about eighteen. It’s not long before they run away to elope, even though Materia is already promised to a man in a the old country. They’re all in Canada now on an island called Cape Breton. The family is scandalized. They make Materia get married in the proper Catholic way, then promptly disown her. Her father is kind enough to provide her a house though. It’s not long before she’s pregnant.

At around fourteen years of age, Materia gives birth to a girl named Kathleen. Kathleen has inherited none of Materia’s ethnicity. She has read hair and is the apple of her father’s eye. He dotes on her. He teaches her how to play the piano and how to read. He devotes everything to her. He forgets Materia for several years. When Kathleen is about twelve going away to a bigger school, James finally remembers he has a wife. In a span of a couple of years, two more children are born, Mercedes and Frances. James adores them as well, but not as much as Kathleen. Materia tries to make her own way in the world, but it’s hard. Another baby only lives a short while.

Kathleen is sent away to go train in New York City. She’s bound to be the next big thing. Her voice is so beautiful. After some time, she is promptly and unceremoniously returned to the island by her father James. In a few months she gives birth, assisted by an emergency cesarean section administered by her mother with a pair of kitchen scissors. She’s already dead at this point, so she doesn’t feel a thing. There are twins, but their lives take very different paths.

Kathleen is followed in death by her mother. Mercedes, at a very tender age of seven, is left to raise a baby and help look after her father. The girls grow. They are well-learned, but the difference between them is in how they are treated by their father. One is respected, while one is not respected.

Lily is the apple of everyone’s eye. Mercedes wants her to be a saint, but Frances wants her to be free. She knows Cape Breton island will lead her to nothing. She has to go elsewhere.

Over the course of the book there is a big mystery. Why did James bring Kathleen home? What happened? Who is the baby daddy? All things are revealed, but it takes many years for it to be accomplished.

What I liked

It’s neat to follow a family around. It’s neat to see the beginning of the family and maybe its end. Each of the family members seem to have their own problems. They’re unique in their modes of suffering. They all suffer. That’s what this book is about. It’s about how each person in this family suffers as a consequence of the choices other people in the family make. Materia suffers because of James’s choices. James suffers because of the choices of hid children. The children suffer because of their father’s choices. In ways, each of these people are detestable. They’re horrible and the things they do to one another are just awful, but they still love each other despite the fact that they are so horrendous to one another. It’s a big thing to say about a family with this many problems.

What I didn’t like

This entire story is created because James is a pedophile. Everyone suffers because of his misgiving. He can be incredibly supportive and nurturing to his daughters, but he’s also a little too friendly to at least a couple of them. His wife was insanely young when he married her. James has a thing for girls. While James is not entirely bad, it’s hard to ever really like him thoroughly because he’s a freaking pedophile. That’s kind of one of those things that’s hard to overlook. Most of us can forgive things like recreational pot use, past drug history, past arrests, and even prison time depending on what the crime was, but if you’re a pedophile, people don’t trust you and they never will. It’s pretty much an unforgivable trait. Sure, you may be an excellent businessmen, or a professional athlete(probably not), but people are going to distrust you, look down upon you, and revile your name if they know you’re a pedophile. I don’t care if somehow miraculously you were cured of your compulsion(I really don’t think that’s ever been the case, I could be wrong), people aren’t going to like you from then on.

For a child touched with this type of life, it’s hard to live normally. We can see that perfectly with Mercedes, Kathleen, Frances, and Lily. They’ve all been touched by abuse, even if they were not abused themselves. People whisper. People suspect. They feel unworthy. They feel degraded and they’re not entirely sure why. They feel used and they don’t know how they’re going to function in real life, with real people, if they already feel so used up. Poor Frances, I really think she catches the brunt of  all this, but even Mercedes doesn’t get to live the life she would have envisioned for herself because of the family history.


I wonder if Dr. Phil used to pick our Oprah’s book club books because that would make things a lot more clear.

ann-mare macdonald, blues, cape breton island, Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald, fall on your kneews, frances, kathleen, lily, mercedes, oprah book club books, singing.
Books set in Canada, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Macdonald-Ann-Marie, Mystery

Books set in Asia, Books set in Canada, Fantasy, Fiction, Finding Your Self

#411 The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Oh, that crazy Pi, always getting into mischief. You know like drifting through the pacific ocean with a Bengal tiger, no biggie. Pi is tough like that.

Pi isn’t his real name. His real name is Piscine, because someone in his family really liked swimming. He was teased in school and kids called him “pissing,” but he thought up his own nickname, “Pi.” It stuck and he’s been called Pi ever since. His family owns and runs the zoo in Pondicherry. It’s quite a large zoo with many animals. His father makes sure to display to Pi the destructive power of the tiger. The other animals in the zoo aren’t so dangerous, but the tiger is really dangerous. Sure, the other animals can hurt you, Pi’s father is quick to tell Pi this fact, but they’re not stone-cold killers like the tiger. Pi is forced to develop a fear of the tigers in the zoo, but he doesn’t let that get him down. He soon converts to three religions at once. He’s not only a Hindu, but also a Christian and a Muslim. His religious professors teach him much about life. At one point, his family decides to leave India and go to Canada, this is when Pi’s real adventure begins.

The paperwork to sell and/or trade all the zoo animals is momentous. It seems to never end, but it finally does. The animals find their new homes just as Pi and his family are going to find their new homes. They have to take a cargo ship to Canada because they are going along with many animals. The ship is asea for a few days when it sinks. Pi is able to scramble aboard a lifeboat with an injured zebra and a hyena. Richard Parker also comes aboard along with an orangutan. Who is Richard Parker you might ask? Well, Richard Parker is a tiger, a real tiger.

Pi lets the dynamic between the animals work itself out for the first few days at sea. This leaves on Richard Parker and Pi alive after a few days. Pi makes himself an escape raft, but knows he has to do something about Richard Parker. Should he kill him? Should he starve him? How should he deal with Richard Parker? It looks like the two of them are going to be in for the long haul, so Pi decides that he must tame Richard Parker. With the aid of fish he catches and a survival whistle, Pi does tame Richard Parker to an extent. Richard Parker knows there are only certain areas of the boat he is allowed to go on. Pi and the tiger exist on the boat together for some months.

After many months, they hit an island, but it’s a strange island. It’s filled with algae and meerkats. Every night Richard Parker comes back to the boat to sleep and Pi thinks this is strange. Pi soon takes up sleeping in a tree at night, where he is subsequently invaded by meerkats. Meerkats are not the worst animals Pi has been around so he thinks that sleeping with meerkats isn’t so bad. The island has something strange to reveal though. It dissolves stuff. That’s why the meerkats take to the trees every night. Pi just can’t live with this and gets back on the boat. Eating animals raw in one thing, but an island that goes around dissolving creatures is just too much.

Pi eventually finds land after a very long and strange journey, but no one believes him. How could he possibly have lived on a boat with a fully grown tiger for months? What about that island? Surely such a thing doesn’t exist? Pi soon has two stories. The men who own the shipping company decide which is true.

What I liked

This is definitely a fantastic story. Tigers, orangutans, hyenas, and meerkats, how much more awesome can you get? Meerkats are interesting creatures. I remember watching the show about the meerkats. They were funny and complex at the same time. Pretty much like Pi said, every story is better with animals.

I cannot imagine being trapped at sea for months. I know there are people who have done it and survived, but it’s hard to imagine. I’m not much of an ocean person, so I can imagine I would get tired of being trapped at sea pretty quickly. I don’t know if Yann has a lot of experience with the sea, but he seems to have gotten the idea of being trapped there pretty accurate, I mean, from what I can tell.

I liked all the descriptions of the animals. I do think it’s neat how some animals can learn to be symbiotic with each other. Yann must also know something about animals or must be really good at doing his research.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, this is a pretty good book. I don’t really find a lot of fault with it. It’s written well, the chapters are fairly short and easy to read. It’s good stuff.

It’s rough for a person to suffer this much though. If you’re one of those super-sensitive people, you may not like the fact that Pi has to suffer so much. You may not like that he loses his family or that he has to sacrifice his religious beliefs in order to survive, but Pi lives, even if it is a bit rough.


I think you should read this especially if you like stories about fantastic voyages.

carnivorous plants, life boat, on a boat with a tiger, ship, ships sinks, sinking ship, survival at sea, the life of pi, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, tiger on a boat, yann martel
Books set in Asia, Books set in Canada, Fantasy, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Martel-Yann

Books set in Canada, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Mystery, Proulx-Annie, Social Commentary

#195 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx


Quoyle is a type of knot, but it’s also the name of our main character in this book. Quoyle finds himself growing up in New York. He has one other brother. The other brother is clearly the favorite. Everyone is always displeased with the way Quoyle has turned out. Something happens to the brother and Quoyle is the only child left.

He finds himself going through meaningless things in life and never really experiencing much of anything. He does get a job writing part-time for a local newspaper. His job is only there while the owner of the newspaper’s children are away at college. Quoyle has a good friend named Partridge who he manages to keep in touch with for many years.

Quoyle manages to meet a train wreck of a woman named Petal. Petal immediately sees Quoyle as a means to have a place to live and someone to take care of the more mundane things in life. Quoyle ends up with two daughters out of this Bunny and Sunshine.

Quoyle’s parents commit suicide and he is left with just his girls. Petal spends her time with various strange men. She’s not very committed. An aunt Quoyle has never met shows up a few months after the deaths of his parents. Her timing sees opportune. Petal has run off with the girls. Petal doesn’t make it, but the girls are fine despite being temporarily sold to someone. The aunt, Agnis, convinces Quoyle to move himself and this girls up toe Newfoundland where the family is from. Quoyle agrees.

He gets a job at the local paper. His duties entail writing about car accidents and which boats have come into port. The aunt shows Quoyle the old home place. The house is very old. It’s been there for a long time. It’s secured to the bare rock with large cables. The winters are fierce in this area of Canada. The new mish-mashed family soon sets about trying to restore the old house.

Quoyle finds himself in a place where he isn’t sticking out like a sore thumb. People actually start to like Quoyle at his new home. He falls into place. He does well at his job. He finds a woman he likes. Things are going pretty good for Quoyle. His children are adjusting rather well.

There are things that Quoyle finds out about his family that aren’t so appealing. His family has a dark past in more ways than one.

Part of the responsibilities of running the local paper, The Gammy Bird, are publishing multiple sexual abuse stories every week. Quoyle picks this up as not normal. The main writer of these stories, Nutbeem, also has a hard time dealing with them. This theme is closer to Quoyle than he realizes.

Quoyle learns of his past, but also creates a place for himself.

What I liked: I’ve read this book several times. There is also a movie, which I have also seen several times. Both the movie and the book are pretty good. I am going to tell you that the book is better than the movie though.

Quoyle is a character that you’re not sure you want to root for. Do you really want to get behind an overweight man who hasn’t really done anything with his life? This is how Quoyle is first presented to the reader. There isn’t anything special there. As you read, you become more attached to Quoyle. You see the troubles and struggles he has. You learn of some things he wants in his life. By the end of the book, you really like Quoyle. He’s a character that really grows on you. I really have to hand it to Annie for being able to make a character that nobody is sure they really like and then turning that person into someone you care for.

In fact, I think most of the characters in the book are like this. I didn’t particularly like Agnis at first. I didn’t like Bunny at first. I didn’t like Sunshine at first. I didn’t like Wavey at first. None of them were very appealing, but they grow on you. You like everybody in the end. They each have their own sad little tales, but you like them.

This book is very descriptive. It’s easy to imagine yourself on the cold sea-shore in Canada. I’ve never been to Canada. I can’t imagine living by the cold ocean, but this book really brings that little piece of North America to life. It would be quite the feat to read this book and not imagine rocky sea sides and the smell of saltwater in the air.

There is this little element of the paranormal in this book. I know I have mentioned before that sometimes I’m not a fan of that. It can be over done. It can sound stupid, but sometimes, an author manages to weave the paranormal into a story and make it sound like it’s supposed to be there. It’s the most natural thing in the world. It makes sense. You might not actually even pick up on that in this book as you read it, but it’s there. I like how Annie was able to weave it in and have it belong there.

What I didn’t like: Sexual abuse is a pretty big plot mover in this book. It’s mentioned more than once. It’s mentioned more than five times. It’s mentioned more than ten times. The thing is that it’s not mentioned in a tasteless manner. It really does serve to further the story.

One of the big points in the book is that in this small coastal town sexual abuse is rampant. It’s everywhere. It’s sets tongues wagging. The sad thing is, that in small towns this is not uncommon. There isn’t a lot to do in a small town. People turn to other means to occupy their time. I know growing up we joked that there was nothing to do in our town and the only things teenagers could find to do was get high or have sex. For the most part, it was true. When people put themselves in these small tight-knit communities strange things start to happen. These are things that would sound crazy to anyone who lived fifty miles away, but seem to make perfect sense in these tight-knit communities. One modern-day instance we all know about and can relate this to is the community of the FLDS under Warren Jeffs. It was quite normal for girls who were fifteen and sixteen years old to be married with kids. To the rest of us, that’s not normal. It’s strange, but to them, it’s perfectly normal. I think it was very smart of Annie to be able to capture this mentality in her book. It’s not a good thing, but Annie gives us this illustration that we can understand.

Overall this is a great book. I would definitely recommend it. One last note, reading this book you feel that Annie probably lives up in the wilds of Canada somewhere. She doesn’t. She lives in Wyoming. I was a little surprised when I found this out. I expected her to be a veteran fisherwoman or something similar, but she’s not. Annie must have had to do a ton of research for this book. She pulled it off beautifully.


Books set in Canada, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Lee-Jen Sookfong, Social Commentary

#124 The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

The End of EastSummary:

Yes, this is a Canadian released book, and no, you’re probably not going to find it just out lying around.  I was lucky and snagged this book, brand new, at the Dollar Tree. Three generations descended from one Chinese immigrant to Canada experience the shift in their every day lives as they come to terms with being in Canada.

Our first generation is a young man when we meet him. He has immigrated to Canada to make money to send back home to his small village in China. It’s not easy to find work because the local Canadians are so prejudiced against the Chinese. Our main character does have a few good times, but eventually he makes enough money to get married.

In order for him to get married he has to go back to China, which he does. He marries a young village woman and they set up a house in China. He leaves six weeks later.

The young woman’s name is Shew Lin and she spends her life in China while her husband spends his life in Canada. He comes back only twice. Each time leaving Shew Lin pregnant with another child. Shew Lin raises two girls and one boy. When the boy is a teenager he is sent to Canada to be with his father.

Pon Mon doesn’t get along with his father and is a more artistic soul than his father ever was. His father succeeded in Canada by buying a barbershop from a Chinese man who decided to retire. Things weren’t easy. There were even a couple of times that the shop was ransacked during riots.

Eventually we meet Pon Mon’s wife, Siu Sang. She comes to Canada in order to get married to Pon Mon. By this time Shew Lin has made her way to Canada leaving behind her two daughters in China. Shew Lin has found it hard to adjust to being in Canada, but she makes do. When Siu Sang comes into the picture, Shew Lin and her, butt heads.

Siu Sang is from a wealthy family. She has never done any work and she never had the intention to. She was more interested in parties and living an elegant lifestyle. Before too long in Canada, Siu Sang, finds herself pregnant with her first child. The child comes into the world a girl, which, if you didn’t know, isn’t exactly the most celebrated occurrence in Chinese culture.

Before too long there is another child. Siu Sang finds it hard to deal with feeling like she is an outsider in the small family. Eventually she finds some spunk and learns to usurp all of Shew Lin’s responsibilities in the home. When this happens, Pon Mon and Siu Sang buy their own home and Shew Lin moves into an apartment with her husband.

Siu Sang ends up with five daughters and this is when we meet our next generation’s protagonist. Sammy is the youngest of the five girls. We meet her preparing for her next oldest sister’s wedding. The other three are already married with lives of their own. Sammy is trying to find a place in the world. She knew she had to come home to be the good daughter, but she doesn’t know where to go from there.

Of course, I won’t go too into detail. You should read the book.

What I liked:  I have read a few books placed in Canada, but they have been few and far between. It’s interesting to read about a place that is so close to what I call home, but yet has its own culture and traditions.

Most people are familiar with the concept of “China Town.” These are areas where large groups of Chinese immigrants have settled in a new place. New York has one, there are several in California, and apparently also in Canada. These areas still practice traditions from the homeland of their ancestors, but also live the new life of their adopted homeland. In the beginning these people were forced to live in one area. Nobody wanted them spreading out into the rest of the country. Unfortunately, it’s been the same with multiple ethnic groups which are forced to keep their own section of town before eventually managing to be accepted enough to move to other areas. Most of these areas were settled in the 1800s and early 1900s. I would hope today that if a group of people from whatever country were to come here today, that they would not be relegated to one small section of town.

Why did I explain the concept of “China Town”? Simple, it’s important to understand these things in life. If you didn’t know about the concept of “China Town,” you need to read some more. I get disappointed when I come across people who should at least have heard of a certain concept, but remain oblivious to anything except their small circle. People need to know about the past to be able to understand our current world.

Let me get back on topic. I like the explanation of ‘China Town’ in this book because it’s a world I have read some about, but not extensively. I like that Lee was able to at least capture some of what early immigrants to the “China Towns” of North America went through.

I also liked the various family members. I generally like being able to see one character through the eyes of the other and then do the opposite. Characters’ thoughts about one another, especially if they are family, make an intricate and interesting book.

What I didn’t like: The book was short. This isn’t a problem within itself, but it’s a problem to the writing style. The reader doesn’t get one main protagonist, but several. This means we get fifty pages or less from each character. I don’t really feel like that is enough space to be able to explore the characters. I would have loved to have learned more about Sied Quan, Shew Lin, Pon Mon, Siu Sang, and Sammy, but there just wasn’t enough space. The reader learns something of why the characters do what they do, but not enough to be satisfied. There is more to the story.

The book is feels like it has more of a poetry feel to it than a novel feel to it. I don’t know if I can explain this thoroughly. When you read poetry, a few words have to explain a lot. The story is still told, but only with the bare bones. This is what this book feels like to me. There aren’t stanzas or rhyming words at the ends of sentences, but the entire story is told with only certain words. There is definitely room for the author to expound upon the story, but she tells it concisely.

I have to be honest, Sammy really seems like a self-destructive character. She’s interesting, but the reader never really gets to know her in-depth. What we do read of her makes her seem like a spoiled teenager for the most part.

Overall, it’s an interesting, but short read. There could be more, but there isn’t. I wouldn’t pass it up though, especially if you’re a fan of Amy Tan or Lisa See.