Book Review: The Better Mother

Book Review: The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee

The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee

The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee

 

 

 

Set in Vancouver, Jen Sookfong Lee’s second novel criss-crosses the years from the 1940s, when young girls dreamt of careers in the naughty world of burlesque, to 1982 as AIDS becomes a grim reality for gay men. Lee deftly weaves together life stories from the perspectives of two central characters. The book opens in 1958 on the day that eight-year-old Danny loses his father’s cigarette money and encounters Miss Val, the Siamese Kitten of the burlesque world, who gives him a pack of cigarettes and, impulsively, her silk belt. Danny sees in that spontaneous gesture an enduring friendship and a future beyond Chinatown. Yet, as he matures, Danny’s life seems always to fall short of his childhood fantasy.

Lee’s  characters are complex and, on occasion, irritatingly human. By the ’80s, Danny is estranged from his disapproving father and work-worn mother. He supports himself as a wedding photographer, an ironic choice for a man whose own lifestyle remains hidden from his family. Danny yearns for recognition as a celebrated photographer, but he forfeits that potential. Instead, he dwells in the painful reality of his own secret life cruising Stanley Park and longing to reconcile with his lover.

Ultimately, another chance meeting leads Miss Val and Danny to share their life stories more fully and to give the reader some hope that they might come to terms with themselves and the people they love.

— Marjorie Mitchell

 

Publisher: Knopf

Price: $29.95; Page count: 350

Just Posted

MOVIE MONDAY: Wartime film treat scheduled this week

Classic German film Das Boot part of a busy November and December at Fort Street film hub

REVIEW: Chase away the November blues at The Phoenix Theatre

Guest director Jacques Lemay and The Drowsy Chaperone offer breezy fun at UVic

Giving back builds a strong community in Victoria

National Philanthropy Day celebrates individuals, groups for their significant contributions

REVIEW: A definitive armistice story at Langham Court

Production of Goodnight Mister Tom hits the mark with believable story, characters

‘Tis the season for family musical theatre in Saanich

Four Seasons presents The Vault Brothers’ Show at Claremont’s Ridge Theatre

REVIEW: Belfry’s latest offering leaves bad taste in the mouth

Mustard loud and overbearing, ruins good story bones, writes reviewer Sheila Martindale

HarbourCats nail down 2019 West Coast League baseball schedule

Another busy summer planned for Victoria’s collegiate level ballclub

ON FOOD: Tiny dinette offering full cheesy goodness

Ruth and Dean impress Monday reviewer Allan Reid with their culinary creativity

Most Read