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Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China…
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Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong

by Susan Blumberg-Kason

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I was interested in this book, since the author's experience was very similar to mine, and I have a draft
of a novel about my time in Japan. I'm always eager to see what others are writing. This memoir is a
straightforward account of her meeting and marrying a Chinese man and having a child with him. The book is interesting because of the content; the style is completely conventional. ( )
  heathrel | Dec 24, 2015 |
When first we meet Susan, a young American woman studying in Hong Kong, we see her as eager and inexperienced — a lover of Chinese culture who is quickly romanced by fellow student Cai, so handsome and sure. Through innocent, intellectual evening chats and patience, Cai courts Susan — and proposes very quickly. Susan, entranced and bewitched by him, agrees.

From there, it unravels.

Questionable relationships. Porn addiction. Extramarital issues. Abandonment, “peep shows,” detachment. Coldness. Threats. Unemployment. Fear.

Here’s what really works about Susan Blumberg-Kason's Good Chinese Wife: Susan gets it. She gets that we may be reading her deeply personal story of a trouble marriage with a critical eye. She knows we may judge, we may disagree, we may shake our hands and wag our fingers. Maybe we’ll say “you should have known.” Susan understands we will not accept all of her choices. Why does she stay when it’s obvious she should run, run, run?

But this Susan — our narrator — is older, wiser, accepting. She’s gazing back at her tumultuous first marriage with a new understanding, and she’s not apologetic about her past. In a matter-of-fact but warm tone, Susan recounts her time with Cai in a way that isn’t truly detached — but makes it clear she’s moved beyond their pain and differences.

At its core, Good Chinese Wife is about a woman who loves a man — one who doesn’t respect or support her. Though she is Jewish-American and he is Chinese, the fault lines in their marriage aren’t entirely due to “cultural differences,” as she once rationalizes. Yes, they hail from separate nations . . . and have entirely different traditions, different values. But as a new wife, Susan works hard to empathize and learn from her husband, accepting his quirks (if you could call a porn addiction a “quirk” . . .) and chooses to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Cai can’t say the same.

Good Chinese Wife is riveting. As outsiders, it may be easy to wonder Why? why? why? Susan would choose to stay with a man who repeatedly and blatantly disrespects her, both through his questionable relationships with others — male and female — and his verbal abuse at home. Cold, silent and brooding, Cai comes across as a dangerously unpleasant man . . . one subject to wild mood swings and threats.

But I got it. I got it. For better or worse, Susan fell in love with him — this tempestuous, mysterious person — and tried to make a life with him, but Cai proved to be someone on whom she could not depend. As they welcomed a son, I cringed at the stunts Cai would pull . . . and the detached, harmful way in which he interacted with his child.

For all the sad, angry moments, this isn’t a negative story — and there were times Good Chinese Wife really sparkled. Susan is incredibly endearing, and I loved the electricity in her voice when she talks about her beloved Hong Kong. Her love for her family is very clear, and she’s incredibly kind — and treated very kindly — by Cai’s parents in Hidden River, who love her and their grandchild as well.

Is Good Chinese Wife about an interracial, intercultural marriage? Yes . . . and no. Though some of Susan and Cai’s issues stem from cultural misunderstandings, of course, it’s far deeper than that. And this isn’t a cautionary tale. By the close, we know Susan bears no malice toward Cai — and having found happiness herself (not a spoiler — in the author bio!), she reflects on their time together in the 1990s very differently these days.

Absorbing, calm and wise, Good Chinese Wife was a memoir I devoured in just a few hours. I felt Susan’s all-encompassing love for her family — and often wanted to simultaneously hug and shake her. Though readers may question her decisions (sometimes I did, too), Susan bravely shares her story in the hope, I think, of inspiring others to stand up for themselves and their families. It’s a thought-provoking memoir, and one I recommend. ( )
1 vote writemeg | Aug 14, 2014 |
I liked this one a lot! What struck me most is that this is Susan’s real life experiences. Cai would have been difficult to be married to even if he was American!! It probably should have been called Bad Chinese Husband. That doesn’t sound very nice though and probably wouldn’t sell many books. LOL. Susan blames herself for most of the problems in their marriage. Why do women think everything is their fault? I think had her child been a daughter her life might have been drastically different. My Chinese girlfriend has encountered many of the same cultural problems with her family after the birth of her son. Her mother quit working to live with them and continues to provide all childcare. They argue about child rearing practices and whether to follow the traditional Chinese methods or the American way to do things. This must be very difficult for many Chinese-Americans.

I have to say that I read this one a few weeks ago and I can still recall it vividly. This story has had a memorable impact on me. Since I read so many books, only a few stand out as memorable. Heck I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t even remember what I had for dinner two days ago!!!

I found this book to be heartbreaking at times. Susan evolves into a much stronger person and the ending is a happy one. This was a great memoir and a real page turner for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  Pattymclpn | Aug 3, 2014 |
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"When Susan, a shy Midwesterner in love with Chinese culture, started graduate school in Hong Kong, she quickly fell for Cai, the Chinese man of her dreams. As they exchanged vows, Susan thought she'd stumbled into an exotic fairy tale, until she realized Cai-- and his culture-- were not what she thought."--Page 4 of cover.… (more)

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