Thursday, September 8, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, has a new book out: The Many Daughters of Afong Moy. The novel combines historical/contemporary/futuristic fiction and magical realism in a multi-generational exploration of inherited trauma/epigenetics.

Although there are several women portrayed in the novel, two are the bookends to the storyline. The first is Afong Moy (based on a true historical figure.) She is the first Chinese woman to come to the U.S. – against her will. She was treated as a type of circus freak, with audiences particularly agog because of her tiny bound feet. She was essentially enslaved and forced to perform. Her story ends in tragedy. Her memories become embedded in the psyches of her descendants.

Each of these descendants has an interesting story of her own. Each lives their own particular tragedy. The stories are beautiful and a bit painful to read.

The traumatic memories are not only inherited but are cumulative. By the time we reach Dorothy Moy’s story, it is the year 2045. Dorothy lives in Seattle, a city rattled by climate change. She is a renowned poet, or was, until she was forced to resign because of her dissociative disorder. She’s in a bad relationship, unemployed, and, worst of all, she fears her five-year-old daughter is sliding down the same path. She’s ready for something drastic. Her therapist recommends an experimental treatment, a genetic therapy that will help her ferret out the inherited memories embedded in her brain. (There is actually scientific research being done in this area.)

Dorothy has to get worse before she gets better. She experiences things that are shown happening in the lives of her ancestors in other chapters. The intertwining of the stories is deftly done.

There is also a man, the soul-mate of Afong Moy, who weaves in and out of all the women’s lives, trying to reconnect, but always just missing. 

There is a lot going on in the novel and it would probably bear reading twice to fully appreciate all the nuance. But even if you can’t read it twice, it’s well worth reading once!

No comments:

Post a Comment