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Review: Mambo in Chinatown

October 23, 2014

Mambo in Chinatown

Charlie is an obedient American-born Chinese daughter living with her widowed father and younger sister.  She’s not happy with her job as a dishwasher but accepts it as her fate.  When she finds a job as a receptionist in a dance studio, she has to keep it secret from her father, but it causes her world to open up.

A witch doctor tells her “what one sister gains, shall the other lose,” and that seems to be happening.  As Charlie blossoms in her new job, her sister starts suffering from an undiagnosed illness.  Charlie’s father wants her treated the old world way while Charlie fights for treatment at the hands of Western doctors.   Charlie has to figure out a way to mesh the two worlds so her sister can get the best treatment.

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok is a wonderful story about the difficulties of blending two worlds.  Charlie is a great character who wants to please her father but also wants to be a modern girl.  She keeps part of her life hidden from him because she knows he won’t approve.  She decides she has to challenge his authority, though, when she realizes her sister’s health is at risk.

I was engrossed in Charlie’s story from the start.  I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of first generation Americans – maybe because my mother is one – and this one did not disappoint.  I did have one minor quibble having to do with Charlie’s job at the dance studio but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book.

The audio version of Mambo in Chinatown is narrated by Angela Lin.  She does a terrific job, particularly with accents, reading this 13 hour audio book.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.


25 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2014 6:36 am

    First generation immigrant stories are really fascinating. This sounds typical

  2. Beth F permalink
    October 23, 2014 6:45 am

    I’ve had this book on my list for ages because I too like stories of first-generation Americans. Sounds like I should get to it.

  3. October 23, 2014 7:37 am

    Glad you enjoyed this one. It’s on my print wish list, but I’m heading over to audible now to listen to an audio sample!

  4. October 23, 2014 8:15 am

    I’ve never read Jean Kwok, but am intrigued after seeing this review and Catherine’s (I think it was Catherine at Book Librarian) on Girl in Translation…

  5. October 23, 2014 9:33 am

    Sounds really good. I too like first generation stories!

  6. October 23, 2014 9:47 am

    I loved Jean Kwok’s last book and I hope to read this one too!

  7. Patty permalink
    October 23, 2014 10:05 am

    It sounds fascinating plus I have never seen this book anywhere yet!

  8. Beth Hoffman permalink
    October 23, 2014 10:12 am

    This sounds so good!

  9. October 23, 2014 1:16 pm

    This audiobook sounds terrific, Kathy! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Wonderful review, as always.

  10. October 23, 2014 1:20 pm

    This sounds like a book I’d enjoy!

  11. October 23, 2014 3:03 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Kathy. I gave it to my mom for her birthday (and hope she’ll loan it back to me to read!).

  12. talesofwhimsy permalink
    October 23, 2014 3:44 pm

    Wow. Sounds compelling and excellent. I love stories with first generation immigrants.

  13. ondbookshelf permalink
    October 23, 2014 4:50 pm

    I have this one on my shelf, I need to get to it soon!

  14. October 23, 2014 8:14 pm

    I thought this was pretty good as well.

  15. October 23, 2014 9:37 pm

    I’m going to have to look for this one.

  16. October 23, 2014 10:22 pm

    Kathy, this sounds like the kind of story I like. I already feel sympathy for Charlie.

  17. October 23, 2014 11:14 pm

    I read her previous book, Girl in Translation, and it was a great read. I wasn’t sure about this one–maybe worried it would be too similar of a story–but your review is making me lean towards getting a copy! Glad you enjoyed it.

  18. October 24, 2014 1:01 am

    I have no idea how I haven’t read Jean Kwok yet!

  19. Margie permalink
    October 24, 2014 9:58 am

    We just listened to this one on a road trip. Loved it, and the narrator was wonderful.

  20. October 24, 2014 10:19 am

    I love first-generation stories, too. This sounds really good!

  21. October 25, 2014 8:44 am

    I’ve been curious about this one, so glad to see you enjoyed it.

  22. October 26, 2014 3:45 pm

    I loved Girl in Translation, so I’m sure I’ll read this one eventually!

  23. October 27, 2014 9:50 pm

    The idea of her trying to blend both cultures is appealing and it sound like the sister’s illness gives it some urgency. Looks good.

  24. October 28, 2014 9:21 am

    I adored Kwok’s first novel and cannot wait to read this one!

  25. swright9 permalink
    November 1, 2014 2:55 pm

    This one sounds like fun; I’m interested. thanks!

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