CBR12Bingo – Money!
This is a recently published novel and was also recently nominated for the Booker Prize Longlist. The plot of the novel involves two children of a Chinese mother and a presumably Native father (though I feel like the novel was specifically vague) recently orphaned (first in 1862 in California). We meet them on the day their father has died and we come to realize their mother has died a few years earlier. In this opening section we are working at an almost visceral impressionistic narration (third person, however) as we watch the children struggle to survive the immediate hours and days and weeks. Their father was both employed as a miner and prospector, and on the day he dies he asks them to find two silver dollars in order to properly bury him. As we move through these first few weeks sluggishly. As the novel broadens out a little, we go back to a few years earlier to when both parents are alive and Sam and Lucy (I’ve been specifically ambiguous about Sam’s gender as that comes into question) are younger, as students in town. Lucy is incredibly smart and her teacher notices this and looks to foster this talent. But circumstances spin out of control, and we come to their mother’s death. From there, we get a short section narrated from the father’s voice explaining his origins. The final section takes place a few years after the first section, as the siblings are older, and split apart.
So the novel has strong (if bleak and dour) writing throughout, and really gets into the wages, legal aspects, and fragile position of anyone, especially girls, and especially non-legal (temporary workers) status of the Chinese in 19th century in America. It’s a weird crossover of Cormac McCarthy and Maxine Hong Kingston.