The Better Mother

The Better Mother

Book - 2011
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Random House, Inc.
From a master of family dynamics comes this vivid tale of two misfits who find each other while stumbling toward their own true identities. In 1958, eight-year-old Danny Lim has been sent to buy cigarettes for his father, when he realizes that he has lost the money. Frantic, he rushes through Vancouver's Chinatown and behind a nightclub, where he sees Miss Val, a long-time burlesque dancer. Danny is enraptured with her sequined garters and silk robe, and Val, touched by his fascination, gives him a pack of cigarettes and her silk belt. Years later, Danny spends his days working as a wedding photographer and his nights cruising Stanley Park, far away from the home where his parents and sister live. He realizes that the key to understanding himself and his family lies in his connection to Miss Val, and he is determined to find her. Before she became the Siamese Kitten, a major player on the North American circuit, Miss Val was Valerie Nealy, a feisty girl growing up in a rundown house beside the Fraser River. But to find the stardom she thought she wanted, she had to make a series of seemingly irrevocable decisions. Set mostly during an unseasonably hot summer in Vancouver in 1982 when HIV/AIDS was spreading rapidly, The Better Mother brims with undeniable tragedy, but resounds with the power of friendship, change and truth. It will cement Jen Sookfong Lee's reputation as one of this country's finest young novelists.

Publisher: Toronto : Knopf Canada, c2011
ISBN: 9780307399502
Branch Call Number: FIC LEE
Characteristics: 347 p. ;,22 cm.

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Cdnbookworm Jan 13, 2012

A wonderful novel, moving between years. The main character is Danny Lim. Danny grew up in Vancouver's Chinatown, but left as soon as he became 18, not wanting the life his parents envisioned for him. Danny is struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality and remains in the closet to all but his sister and close friends. He works as a wedding photographer but dreams of a photography exhibit of his personal work. When Danny was a child he had an encounter with an exotic dancer that he has never forgotten. When something reawakens that memory, he is determined to find out more about her. So part of this book is Val's story too. Her act was the 'Siamese Kitten' and her story is also one of not facing up to her truth. The two bolster and encourage each other to move forward in their lives by being open about who they are and what made them that way. A novel of secrets, and of self-awareness, this book is hard to put down.

debwalker May 29, 2011

"Danny Lim was eight years old when he first met Miss Val, the burlesque star known as the Siamese Kitten, in an alley of Vancouver’s Chinatown in 1958. Glamorous, vivacious, mesmerizing—“She was the mother he could never have. And he loved her for it.”

In The Better Mother, Vancouver author Jen Sookfong Lee follows these seemingly disparate individuals, looping through their lives from 1938 to 1982, and knits a story about families and their silences, motherhood, friendship, love, and the unforgotten wishes of childhood."

David Chau

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