REVIEW: 'The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling' by Wai Chim Made Me An Emotional Wreck (how lovely!)
Hello Fellow Readerholics,
Seeing as YADay 2020 was yesterday (it was so much fun, highly recommend) I decided to review ‘The Surprising Power Of A Good Dumpling’ by Wai Chim as she was there on a panel (she also signed my book, I was kind of fangirling). I read the book last month and it was good. Like really, really good. Here are my thoughts.
TW: suicide ideation/attempt, physical/emotional/verbal abuse, depression, delusion/ hallucinations, animal abuse
Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.
But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.
This book was kind of incredible. It also really stressed me out. It also angered me a lot of the time. I was also pretty emotional after reading it. So basically, this book was fantastic.
This book is heavy, that’s kind of the point but I didn’t expect it to be this heavy. It touches on so many serious issues that I think a lot of people could benefit reading about. Readers might see themselves in characters or learn something new and that is why I like books with this kind of subject matter, because it’s raw and emotional and beautiful. And hey, they often have some pretty great representation which is always nice to see.
The characters in this book were so, so real. I feel as if I could know someone like Anna and be friends with her at school and that’s why it sucks when characters like Anna go through what she has because it feels like real life. Speaking of Anna, I adored her. She was such a joy to read about and she was so human, most of the time I just wanted to give her a hug. I also really liked Rory, he was so kind and sympathetic and he had his own demons (more on this later). I found them to be really cute together despite Anna being around 16/17 and Rory being roughly 20. I really loved how they were together and they bonded over good food so it was a win. I also know people like Rory, relate to them, even. I found this to be really important because if you can see characters with their own issues and relate them to real people, it normalises their struggles and opens us up to talking about it.
This book touched on so many issues that I honestly don’t really know where to start. It talks a lot about mental health and mental illness and particularly what it is like to be the child of a parent who is mentally ill. In the novel, we see Anna struggle to come to terms with her mother’s depression and eventual ‘episode’ (I don’t really know what to call it, sorry). As readers, we also see how this affects her father and younger siblings and it was honestly quite heartbreaking at times. We also later learn of Rory’s own issues surrounding depression and his attempt at suicide (this is technically a spoiler but it’s really important). I think that Rory’s story was one of hope though, the novel details his recovery and I found it to be a rather triumphant success.
I also really appreciated the #ownvoices representation and Anna’s added cultural pressure that she feels. In the novel, Anna discusses how she knows that she technically doesn’t have to conform but still feels an overwhelming pressure to be a ‘good Chinese daughter’ and to contribute to her family as much as she can. The book also touches on racism, particularly, micro-aggressions and how in Australia we have a tendency to be (unintentionally, I hope) racist towards non caucasians and when this is highlighted in a book as popular as this one, I hope it’ll make more people think before they say or do.
The ending absolutely killed me. I just sat there crying for like 15 minutes, which is quite rare for me. I think it almost left me in a state of shock, almost. Without giving anything away, it wasn’t typical of a YA contemporary as it end with happiness or even hope but that’s reality. I absolutely hated the ending because it upset me and I just loved Anna too much for that but I also kind of love it for what it did to me (aka destroyed me).
Overall, this was an incredibly heavy read laced with beautiful characters and a small semblance of hope. I’m giving it 4.5/5.
Your Favourite Bookworm