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

Heads up! A new take on A Christmas Carol coming to the Mac

Wonderheads tackle the beloved Dickens classic, Dec. 17-18 at Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse

Jon and Roy’s Holiday Special always a hot ticket

Multi-act Dec. 6 concert at the Royal virtually sold out, cozy, chill vibe will prevail

ALLAN REID: A good time for Thai in Estevan Village

Plenty of pride on display, from food to hospitality, at Norah Thai Kitchen

REVIEW: Shakespearean tragedy shines at the Phoenix

UVic theatre crew hits the right notes with Othello, writes Sheila Martindale

Criminal injustices come alive on stage in Secret/e

Criminalization of HIV among themes in Rick Waines’ story, opening Nov. 27 at Intrepid Theatre Club

Remembrance Day services: where to pay your respects in Greater Victoria

Memorial events happening around the region on Nov. 11

It’s a Mexican culinary celebration in Victoria!

Taco, Tequila and Margarita Fiesta takes over the Victoria Public Market the evening of Nov. 16

Golden Globes to honour TV pioneer Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres to receive the Carol Burnett Award on Jan. 5

Citizen Kane featured at Sooke’s Intermission Film Series

Movie considered the greatest of all time

Most Read