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A character study.

Eating Chinese Food Naked: A Novel - Mei Ng

This is very much a character driven book, very little actually happens, but we do get a feeling for life as a second generation Chinese girl in New York.

 

Ruby is 21 when she graduates from university and goes home to live with her parents. Although she didn't have much money in her bank account, I didn't get the feeling that her return was entirely a financial decision. She cared a great deal for her mother, Bell, whose uncaring husband treated her poorly. Although Ruby loved her father, I don't think she liked him very much and she was certainly aware of how mean he was to Bell.

 

Ruby wanted to take Bell away for a holiday in Florida, where her friends lived, and she worked as a temp to raise the funds, but the trip was continually postponed. Why? Bell just couldn't make the break from her husband, her life, even for a couple of weeks.

 

There was also a white boyfriend from Ruby's time at Columbia. While he loved Ruby, she wasn't sure how she felt about him and didn't see any problem with going off for other sexual encounters at the same time. There was quite a bit of sex in the book, thrown in in a very casual manner; nothing overtly blatant, but certainly not disguised.

 

I think what has stayed with me most from this book were the courtesies extended while eating - one would always choose the best bits and slip them into the other person's bowl and they would do the same for you. It was a way of showing you cared. That really appealed to me.

 

Published in 1998, this is the author's only book. I notice from her biography that Mei Ng was also a graduate of Columbia University and was raised in Queens, of Chinese parents; I wonder to what extent this book is autobiographical.

 

Not a riveting read but interesting and thought provoking.