The Love Wife
by Gish Jen
Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 1400042135
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
The Love Wife
Knopf, Sep 2004, $25.00
His mother hated that second generation Chinese-American Carnegie married “Blondie” instead of a Chinese. In spite of his mother’s objections, Carnegie and Janie (“Blondie”) seem to get on fine and eventually adopt two Asian children (fifteen years old Lizzy and nine years old Wendy). Fifteen months ago Blondie gave birth to their first natural born child a son Bailey.
Before dying from Alzheimer’s, mom arranged for the single Lan, a female relative from Mainland China, to join her son’s family. The mysterious Lan seems to have captured Carnegie’s attention and shares much with the girls. Janie feels more and more like an outside Blondie with her own family. She turns to her infant son for solace as the other three increasingly turn to Lan.
This is an intriguing look at modern race relations within a family that seems like an anecdote for society in general as complexity is a way of life. Carnegie is an intriguing protagonist as he rediscovers his roots, but fears that will make him seem ancient in America. Of interest is how clever Lan is in using the insecurities of the adopted children, the fears of Janie increasingly wondering if she is the outsider, and the fascination of Carnegie to manipulate her hosts. Though rotation of the perspectives enables the audience to better understand the individual, that device also makes it difficult to follow the plot as no center holds the tale together. Still this is a poignant look that intelligently argues that racial issues are changing yet remain local.
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