Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE YEAR OF FINDING MEMORY by Judy Fong Bates (2010)

Opening with the startling phrase, "not long after my father hanged himself in the summer of 1972," Judy Fong Bates faces head on the shame that she has felt since her then-80-year-old father's suicide, completed in the basement of her parents' Toronto home after a lunch that her twenty-something self had shared with them at their table.

Thirty-five years later she embarks on a journey to China with her much older half-brothers to their parents' ancestral villages. With her lo fan husband Michael in tow, Fong Bates expects merely to tag along; however, what she discovers there about both her mother and father alters her perspective of the unhappy past that they shared. No longer is she able to view them as simply disappointed and bitter in their Canadian life that she experienced with them in small-town Ontario.

What is completely heartbreaking about Fong Bates's discovery is the hero's welcome that her father would routinely receive when he returned to China to visit relatives and townsfolk whom he had supported financially for years through remittances sent home from his modest life as a free-but-indentured laundryman.

Some family secrets are meant to be told. Make room for wonder in THE YEAR OF FINDING MEMORY.

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