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

Fiddle tunes complete farm bistro experience

Year-end recital at the Roost features Nellie Quinn’s fiddle students

Rebirth of downtown cultural festival coming to Victoria in July

Folktoria aims to pick up where Folkfest left off

Pass a pint: Great Canadian Beer Festival tickets on sale now

Over 200 brews and ciders will be featured at this year’s craft celebration

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria expansion gets $6M boost from province

Project many years in the making, but planned for current Rockland site

B2B season has rare Island line-up of shows in Qualicum Beach

Month-and-a-half of performances kicks off with Baskerville comedy July 3

B.C. tourism grant helps Sooke Fine Arts Show

Grant will attract audiences from across B.C. and Washington

Sooke Arts Council hosts open house

Event takes place July 3 at 7 p.m.

Disney production filming at Victoria’s Government House today

Made-for-TV movie will feature the inside of the Rockland Avenue mansion

Duncan Has Talent performers prepping for summer show

Signups on now for crowd-pleasing series staged at Charles Hoey Park as part of The 39 Days of July.

PRIDE WEEK: Popularity has surged for Memorial Drag Ball game in the past 20 years

The venue has changed, but the theme of not taking one’s self too seriously remains

5 fun things to do this weekend in Greater Victoria

Car Free YYJ, family fishing, Sooke bluegrass, walk for cancer and a mascot’s birthday

Most Read