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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trio of rock shows rescheduled for Alix Goolden Hall

Bowie tribute show, Martin Barre’s Jethro Tull show and Tommy Emmanuel all booked for late fall

Province announces $3M in funding for arts groups hit by COVID-19 crisis

BC Arts Council to administer support for both organizations and individual artists

Opera from a social distance: Taking it to the web

Pacific Opera Victoria launching two weekly podcasts to educate and stay in touch with listeners

Victoria Quarantunes playlist encourages support for struggling artists

Victoria brewpub creates local playlist after restaurant closes in response to COVID-19

Retired Victoria record store owner pens a poem for these ‘strange times’

Joey Scarfone offers his creative commentary on the scenario wrought by a pandemic

Netflix reducing video quality in Canada to lower Internet bandwidth use

Bell Media is also planning traffic measures affecting the Crave streaming service

Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options for 2020

Summer events running out of time to stay on schedule, in wake of COVID-19 uncertainties

Relief fund for Canadian performing artists gets $100,000 boost from foundation

Facebook started the fund with a first $100,000 donation last week

Henley, Tucker, Cyrus and others mourn the death of Rogers

Country music icon remembered as a crossover pioneer, a supporter of young artists

Self-isolating? National Film Board of Canada has over 4,000 free films online

A wide range of documentaries, animated films and short films are on the NFB website

Music industry feeling the effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Island musicians, promoters and producers alike reeling from cancellations, venue bans

Joseph Blake: 10 amazing CDs to explore in our COVID-19 isolation

Longtime music writer shares his favourite records from his vast collection

Most Read