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Was anyone else irked by Polly's leaving Yong in response to her relief of reconnecting with Deming? I understand that she felt disconnected from herself due to trying to survive with a devastating separation. I also understand that Polly was never her true self going into that relationship. But I can't help but feel bad for Yong. It's like he got used for 8 years until she reconnected with Deming and could move on. I felt disappointed that that Polly's response to her relief of reconnecting with Deming was to leave her husband. (I recognize my values impact my feelings towards this.) Polly's previous "leavings" were based on lack of opportunities and, of course, the imprisonment and deportation weren't her choice. One could argue that Polly's choice to leave this time is a liberation of herself. I wish that Polly could experience some growth in learning how to face life without choosing the "flight" option. Hopefully, in her new space she will be able to create a life for herself that she won't feel the need to escape from.
Still haven't finished reading the book, still have a 1/4 to go, but I can't shake the feeling of Polly being a detached and un-loving mom. I guess she cares about her son, but not enough to stay, not enough to fight for him, not enough to share the knowledge that she has a son with her new husband. It seems like she is very selfish, always thinking about herself first, her freedom, and motherhood was a real trap for her. I just can't connect on an emotional level with this kind of a character. Deming also seemed like a teenage brat most of the book - he is not grateful for his adoptive parents, takes them for granted, while still holding a grudge to his real mom... Just let it go! it has been years... Learn how to live your life. Instead he is gambling away money that is not his, being rude to Kay... I am just disappointed with both of them.
I thought Daniel was extremely unfair to his adoptive parents and I thought the author's portrayal of the adoptive parents was a little one-dimensional. Really, are they progressive, liberal, well-educated professors and they're that out of touch with minorities? Maybe that's a reality for some people, but I found it so frustrating that Daniel just kept resenting them without ever opening his freaking mouth. While I can't imagine being in his position, his passivity annoyed me to no end.
I loved two things specifically about this book. I love the importance put behind little things, for example: I think the changing throughout the book of whether Deming/Daniel called himself either Deming or Daniel is very subtly important. I think that distinction is very closely tied to his self-identity in that moment. Second, I definitely got a strong vibe from this book that D is a synesthete. If you don't know what Synesthesia is I would google it really quickly because it's really a fascinating topic. I have been described as being a synesthete by a friend (I didn't know what it was at the time). He told me about it after I told him about me "seeing" the music he recommended to me. He looked so confused when I told him that I preferred one song over the other because it sounded "less orange-y". The way the author described D's thoughts about different songs and his own deep passion and talent for music, she must be a synesthete herself because it was spot on.
Anyway, sorry if other people have already pointed these things out I haven't had a chance to scroll down and read all of the other posts yet :)
I have to start off by saying I love a good immigrant story, especially the ones that fully explore the differences (or even underlying similarities) between cultures. When I chose this book, I noticed several people discuss the struggle of fitting in and maybe some racism that's touched upon when the main character is adopted and "forced" to acclimate to the suburban life. All this made me really want to dive in!
After finishing the book, I'm not sure this really is an immigrant story. Deming's adoptive parents do try to raise him as their own and part of their community, but I really didn't view them as monsters trying to force a Chinese kid to become white. They were people who struggled with fertility and adopted a child, gave him an English name for his sake, and tried to support him in his later life to attend university so he would be well off as an adult, as any parent would. Their friends on the other hand were those cliches who think they know everything about a country because they visited one time and majored in that concentration in college. But Peter and Kay didn't strike me as those cliches and I think they were unfairly pivoted against Peilan.
I think at the end of the book, my feeling was that this was really about Deming wanted to make sure his mother didn't leave him intentionally, not that he has an identity struggle and is trying to find his place in either culture. I think it ultimately came down to wanting to be near his mother, and whether that was in China or here, is sort of irrelevant. What do you guys think?
I was really excited to dive into this book as I love family sagas, and love books about families from different cultures. But...for some reason I just could not get into the book or come to care for any of the characters. When I read a book like this, where the plot is primarily focused on relationships and growing up, I want to feel for the characters - love or hate them, I want to care about them in some way. I just didn't get that with this book which bummed me out.
I did enjoy the writing of the story and it was a quick read. Ultimately though, I closed the book feeling disappointed and disengaged.
To be fair, Pachinko is a really hard book to follow, so maybe if I hadn't just read that beautiful story, I would have connected more with this one.
This book unpacked so many themes related to self-identity and family. How do we define ourselves? Is family what we are born into or can we shape our own? Can you recreate yourself?
As I read this novel, I was impacted by Daniel/Deming's constant struggle to fit in, and how the loss of his family made him feel like an outsider, no matter where he was. So many of his actions were driven by a desire to be both true to himself and to meet the expectations everyone imposed on him. The ending, for me, was fitting because Deming finally was confident enough to pursue what HE wanted in life - to go after dreams or avenues that he previously felt too insecure or too undeserving to obtain.
The author also did a great job exploring family dynamics. What makes someone family? Is there a need to simply know from where we came? While Peter and Kay loved Deming, it was painful to read about their interactions and attempts at assimilation. And yet, when Deming is with Polly on his birthday, I felt discomfort at the pain it was causing Peter and Kay. This couple had adopted and incorporated Deming into their family, and yet, they never truly accepted him. It makes me wonder how frequently this happens, in which adopted children lose their heritage, values, or even identities for the sake of being loved by anyone.
Overall, the character development was outstanding. The writing enjoyable and fast paced. I wanted to know what happened and was thinking about this book even when I couldn't actually read it. I would highly recommend this to other readers who have enjoyed similar immigrant-based novels (Exit West, Behold the Dreamers).
I am on about page 75 of this book, and I already feel so connected to the characters. After I got through the first chapter, I was hooked. It is painful to read about Deming's forced assimilation into a majority-White culture - even if it is done in from a place of good intention. I desperately want to know what happened to Deming's mother Polly, and already cannot imagine that she would have just left him behind. Whenever I am not reading this book it is on my mind and I hope that the ending is as powerful as the beginning. I know some individuals have commented that they were not able to get into this book, but I hope others are inspired by it as I am.
I wanted so badly to like this book. It had such a great concept, but I couldn't stand the writing. The writing style grated on my nerves and I couldn't keep reading. I tried to read it for 3 days and only got to page 35. Honestly when I saw "Snow fell like clots of wet laundry" on the first page I knew I shouldn't have gotten it. I wish I could give this book back.