CBR Bingo – Bird, because this is a book about friends – birds of a feather, flocking together
This is a tale of two women, told in short vignettes that are almost stories unto themselves. Each story centers on one of two friends – Jane and Fiona. In the first two chapters, we learn more about Jane and Fiona’s respective family backgrounds – both have roots in Taiwan, but Jane was born in American and feels more estranged from her dad, who returns to Taiwan and elects to stay there (a situation that, for many reasons, Jane has complicated feelings about). Fiona was born in Taiwan, and moved to the US with her mother when she was very young. The two meet in grade school, and together (along with a third friend, who we meet in the third chapter and who makes charming cameos throughout) they grow up together and form the sort of bond that lasts through middle age. Not that their friendship is central to their lives, or even the book itself – for many chapters, Jane and Fiona are living almost completely separate lives, as they have vastly different experiences in their 20s. Jane remains in their hometown in LA, dating a series of women and men that are ultimately not fulfilling for her (because she has not yet been prepared to deal with the tragedy of losing her dad in her early 20s). Fiona is smart and ambitious – she moves to New York in her early 20s, following a boyfriend, attempting law school. After almost a decade, she returns to LA – always quick to fall in love, always disappointed by men who don’t see her as enough.
Each story alternates perspectives between Jane and Fiona, with Jane’s chapters told in first person and Fiona’s told in third. The third chapter best illustrates their friendship, especially between the two young girls and their third, Won. In this chapter, we see how their formative experiences together might bind them for life – even when their lives take them on very different paths, far from one another.
The chapters tell a story, but not entirely linearly – there’s often clues that each chapter is not following in chronological order. It’s not a straightforward tale of friendship – often, the women aren’t even anywhere near one another, and most of the stories focus solely on the life of one or the other. Just like humans in real life, the characters in these stories, especially Fiona and Jane, are struggling with the tragedies that come to define their lives. Sometimes we see Fiona or Jane seem to break through, but like most people moving from their 20s, through their 30s, they mostly just seem to exist and survive. They’re not always learning something, not always moving forward. That might be part of the point – we don’t always move forward, find redemption, or experience life in a linear fashion. There are certain friendships that are central to your understanding of self, even if they’re not part of your daily life.