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Works by Susan Lieu


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This is an intriguing and intimate story about the author’s mother, her life, and legacy, but it also explores the author’s healing journey, her relationships with family members, and her path of self-discovery.

Even though this book delves into serious topics such as unattainable beauty standards and intergenerational trauma, the author skillfully incorporates humor throughout the narrative, creating a well-balanced tone that doesn't detract from her message.

I enjoyed the insights into the author’s daily life, such as family gatherings, running the nail salon, exploring Vietnamese cuisine, and navigating often complicated family dynamics. It was interesting to read about the different ways in which people process grief. However, I think the memoir could be a bit shorter as certain sections felt repetitive, especially toward the latter part.

There’s a lot of emphasis on spirituality and psychic abilities which didn’t resonate with me, but I still found it somewhat interesting to read about.

While I admire the author's determination to learn more about her mother and understand herself through her story, I found her conclusion—that it's best to simply “let it go”— confusing and contradictory to the rest of the story. It felt as though the more negative aspects of the story were not fully processed, and as another reader noted, the author's desire to conclude the novel with an inspirational tone, to me felt like a form of toxic positivity.

Overall, this memoir offers valuable insights into the negative consequences of unrealistic beauty standards and the pressures women face, sadly often from other women in their circles. It’s a powerful story about a woman who is trying to heal while also doing everything in her power to make sure her mother’s story is never forgotten.

The cover design is eye-catching and perfectly captures the essence of the story. I especially like the colors and neon lights effect. It would definitely grab my attention at a bookstore.

Thank you, BookishFirst, the publisher Celadon Books, and author Susan Lieu for the ARC copy! I received a free copy of this book, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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thehungrymoth | 7 other reviews | Apr 14, 2024 |
Thank you to Bookishfirst and Celadon Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review

The Manicurist's Daughter by Susan Lieu is an emotional, gripping memoir about the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who grew up in California in the 1980s. Her mother was a successful businesswoman who established several nail salons, but when Susan was 11, her mother died while getting a tummy tuck from a non-licensed doctor. In this memoir, the author goes through family history and court documents and expands on what she learned about the beauty industry and plastic surgery clinics in general.

Here is a gripping excerpt from the opening chapter:

"My mother was in an ambulance all alone when she was thirtyeight. A botched plastic surgery from a negligent surgeon. She went
without oxygen to her brain for fourteen minutes before he made the
9-1-1 call. Here I was, thirty-seven years old, about the same height
and weight as she was, also alone. I wasn’t ready to die. My son was
almost three. My mother died when I was eleven.
I started talking to my Creator. Give me until I’m sixty—wait, no,
seventy-­five. And I’m not ready yet. I have to publish this book! That was
my real answer. I didn’t say spare me because of my son. I wanted more
time so I could tell my family story. Guilt, then shame set in. Then it
was the pain that shocked me back to the present moment."

Overall, The Manicurist's Daughter is a memoir that I would recommend to any reader interested in Asian American memoirs or nonfiction books about the beauty industry. One highlight of this book is how open the author is to teling us what happened to her family. Instead of burying it away, she is telling us family secrets so that no woman will have to go through what the author went through. Another highlight of this book is how powerful of a story it is. I felt myself getting emotional while reading this book and feeling the author's grief while she goes searching for answers. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of memoirs in general, I highly recommend that you check out this book, which is available now!
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LaytonBooks | 7 other reviews | Mar 31, 2024 |
I love that she got her mother's story out along with the trauma of being first gen. I wasn't a nail salon bb but I was def a restaurant kid and I can relate to my mother's need to be a leader and stern. When she was handing out hot tea and worrying about dropping it I was sorting silverware hoping I didn't accidently cut myself or anyone else. I did dishes and hated soggy beans like she hated cherry colored nail polish.

Her story can help other children who have to work to support their family. I never wished that my mother was dead and I can't imagine the pain of losing someone after you said you hate them. I am glad that she was able to play volleyball and persevere even as the sort of black sheep in the family. It was hard to see the family lose their glue that held everything together. The fancy din dins and her love of food such a struggle no matter and ultimately comparing herself to her mother who died from body image stuffs herself. This one is a tear jerker so grab the tissues baddie… (more)
ikarladee | 7 other reviews | Mar 19, 2024 |
I really enjoy reading memoirs, especially ones like this. They are interesting, informative, educational and show us a way of life that may be very different than our own. They are just fun to read. But often they are equally hard to read. That different way of life is often difficult, challenging, sometimes dangerous. The people who survive and write these memoirs are inspirational. And insightful. Their memories are nuanced, mixing the trauma they had to endure with the joy of that long-ago life. Sometimes they are bitter, and it may take many years to find peace.

Susan Lieu describes a life in The Manicurist’s Daughter that is simply fascinating. I could vividly picture that little girl solemnly and industriously carrying out her assigned duties and bearing a lot of responsibility for such a young child.

But her mother? Pretty terrifying. In the author’s words, “She had the master plan, leading with the omniscience of Oz, the high expectations of Confucius, and the charm of Princess Diana.” Pretty strong force and one you’re unlikely to pit yourself against, especially when you are just a young girl. And not someone whose mind you could change or whose motivations you could understand.

There is so much to absorb in this book, the author covers so much: family history and hierarchy, tradition, grief, body image, food, class, race. Fitting in a strange world that isn’t always accepting. And at the heart of the book, the author’s long-time struggle to understand her mother’s need for plastic surgery, and her own need to find peace with it, to stop wanting to punish the plastic surgeon, even if he deserves it, even if he is now dead.

As always, Celadon Books are the best; they publish a variety of fiction and non-fiction that will always satisfy. The Manicurist’s Daughter is strong, compelling, eye-opening, heartbreaking and author Susan Lieu makes you experience that different world and also the world of the child in all of us who just misses their mother. Thanks to Celadon Books for providing an advance copy of The Manicurist’s Daughter as a Celadon Reader via NetGalley. I couldn’t put it down and recommend it without hesitation. I voluntarily leave this review; all opinions are my own.
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GrandmaCootie | 7 other reviews | Mar 12, 2024 |