There is a brand new author out there that we should all be paying attention to. Her name is Jean Kwok. Her new book has just been published.The story begins with Kimberly Chang arriving in NewYork City with her mother. They’ve come from Hong Kong to America with the aid of Kimberly’s aunt and uncle. The relatives own what is now known as a sweat shop. They simply called it a factory. Kids went to work to help their parents and ended up staying and working their lives away. They literally worked themselves to death.
Kimberly has a gift. It is a gift of learning. She is good at it. Great at it really. It will be her way out.
The first apartment they live in is in the projects. They work at the factory and have to pay back auntie for all she has done for them. They have barely enough eked out to buy food. There is no heat , but plenty of rats and cockroaches. They are ashamed.
When Kimberly meets Matt at the factory as he helps his mom and backward little brother, we can feel the spark begin. They grow up together. But life gets in the way. Kim wins a complete scholarship to a private high school.Then Kim gets full scholarship to Yale. Meanwhile Matt is still working several jobs. Not able to further his education.
Jean Kwok is a new novelist full of potential for greatness. I loved this story. She has taken what could have been a typical Asian coming of age novel and given it freshness. Made it special. I love not being able to figure out what will happen. The aunt is like the wicked step mother. But why?
Matt becomes terribly frustrated and his life takes a turn. Although he has always loved Kimberly, he simply must get on with his life. They both have other relationships over time.
Kimberly keeps a secret so ambitious that it will make your heart hurt. Toward the end of this book I found myself turning the pages like crazy. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It became unputdownable.
Kwok interweaves a story of a friendship between Kim and another young girl named Annette. They are both misfits, but Annette is from a very wealthy family. The fact that Kim was able to keep her poverty a secret from her friend until well into adulthood is astonishing, but Kwok does a stellar job with this aspect.
Kim’s teachers are a dream bunch of educators. It was such a joy to watch how Kim evolved into the intelligent woman she becomes. Without these mentors she might have been doomed to a life in the factory alongside her mother.
As I galloped along toward the finale of this powerful novel, I couldn’t help but hope for a certain conclusion. I can’t tell you anymore; would be a spoiler. But please add this one to your must read list for summer. You can’t do any better than this.
P.S. Oh, maybe you should add the new Ann Hood to your summer reading list as well. THE RED THREAD is amazing. I loved it too!