The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee

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...this is the moment the entire novel hinges on, yet ironically it is not the strongest moment in the book. This is but one criticism in a book rich with plot twists and turns, that asks what it means to be gay when everyone you know and love is dying, and what it means to be a woman who may or may not choose to be a mother.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

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.
 

About Jen Sookfong Lee

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Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver's Eastside, where she now lives with her husband and son. Her books includeThe End of EastandShelter, a novel for young adults. Her poetry, fiction and articles have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, includingTOK: Writing the New City,The Antigonish ReviewandEvent. A popular radio personality, Jen is the voice behind “Westcoast Words,” a weekly writing column featured on CBC Radio One'sOn the CoastandAll Points West. She appears regularly as a columnist onThe Next Chapterwith Shelagh Rogers and is a frequent co-host of theStudio One Book Club.
 
Published May 24, 2011 by Knopf Canada. 368 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Zoe Whittall on Jun 03 2011

...this is the moment the entire novel hinges on, yet ironically it is not the strongest moment in the book. This is but one criticism in a book rich with plot twists and turns, that asks what it means to be gay when everyone you know and love is dying, and what it means to be a woman who may or may not choose to be a mother.

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