This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Penguin Random House Audio
Released on June 9, 2020
Desperate times and all that for hardworking, high-achieving Andrea Tang as she faces the traditions of her Chinese-Malaysian family. She’s lost herself along the way and when facing the moment when all she has worked for is on the line, will she choose family expectations or personal happiness?
I was thrilled to come across this debut story laced with humor, but featuring the difficult internal journey of a middle class career woman in southeast Asia.
Andrea Tang faces another family Chinese New Year celebration that is pure torture if one is still single. The older aunties take sadistic pleasure in hassling her and the few others to get with it and find a rich Chinese man to settle down and start a family with. Andrea isn’t opposed to such a thing and even wistfully dreams of it, but she hasn’t come across a man fitting that description who stirs her enough to commit marriage with. She puts all her efforts into making partner at her law firm and is in competition with Suresh Aditparan. They share an office and swap witticisms. For a competitor, he’s fun to be around and she is not unimpressed with his side interest of writing a comic that is growing an audience. He’s all wrong for her and besides, he’s got a marriage contract with an amazing medical professional.
Through life’s up and downs of cousins finding their someones, friends’ lives, and trying to get a handle on her handbag collection and drinking habit, Andrea grows disgruntled with her life even when she finds the perfect man in Eric Deng, wealthy businessman. Instead of feeling free and happy from being on the verge of impressing her critical family, she feels a panic attack coming on. But, the pressure is really and Eric really is something special.
Andrea is a sparkling, pretty, and driven person and there is something engaging about her willing to put up with unhappiness to care about her family’s wishes, but at the same time, she can party hard with the booze, jump to conclusions and be somewhat self-absorbed (who isn’t, right?). She lives in a cut-throat world where social climbing and power-networking mean she has to be a shark, too. I found her both funny and frustrating at the same time. She had a personal journey to take, but she wasn’t immediately changed and had some set backs and detours.
I’m not a fan of love triangles, but this one made sense to the type of story it was because both men fit with the opposite choices, too. And, it didn’t feel like much of a love triangle most of the time because one was unavailable. I liked both men and felt both were worthy in their ways just not necessarily both were right for Andrea.
The lush descriptions of life in Singapore was interesting as was the description of Andrea’s family traditions and the traditions of other Asians living there and around Malaysia. It’s a very different world from my own and expanded my knowledge. I was glad the author took the time to explain various things to the members of her reading-listening audience who knew little of the culture like myself.
I loved the way Andrea came to know herself and see her private strength and determination emerge as well as her eventual journey to love, but along the way, I had a great time with her in situations with her friends especially her old college roommate, Linda. Together, they get into some hilarious situations though, my stars, I can’t believe neither need a liver transplant as much as they drank. It was also fascinating seeing Andrea in her work setting that involved contracts with big international businesses.
My only niggle is that it had several places in the story that lagged and didn’t move forward. I skimmed a few times to get past those moments.
This was my first time listening to Christina Ho’s narration work. Her voice was easy listening and I enjoyed her moderate voice acting that went beyond narration work to include lots of emotion. Her Andrea cackle of glee made me laugh each time. I thought she was very versatile with elder voices, male, and even the accents of the non-Chinese characters. I want to hear more of her work.
In summary, it was an engaging character-driven story, a heroine on a personal journey, and a setting that sparkled with color and spice. Those who enjoy chick lit, women’s fiction, romcoms, and light contemporary romance should give this one a look-see.
My thanks to Penguin-Random House Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
Literary Pickers #96 Southeast Asia
New Release #113
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