Thursday, April 23, 2015

Read Review: Typical American

Typical American by Gish Jen
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Vintage (first published 1991)

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

From the beloved author of Mona in the Promised Land and The Love Wife comes this comic masterpiece, an insightful novel of immigrants experiencing the triumphs and trials of American life.

Gish Jen reinvents the American immigrant story through the Chang family, who first come to the United States with no intention of staying. When the Communists assume control of China in 1949, though, Ralph Chang, his sister Theresa, and his wife Helen, find themselves in a crisis. At first, they cling to their old-world ideas of themselves.  But as they begin to dream the American dream of self-invention, they move poignantly and ironically from people who disparage all that is “typical American” to people who might be seen as typically American themselves. With droll humor and a deep empathy for her characters, Gish Jen creates here a superbly engrossing story that resonates with wit and wisdom even as it challenges the reader to reconsider what a typical American might be today.

My sister picked up this book randomly from the sale section. And I borrowed it from her when she was done. The story entails how a young boy is sent to America from China to escape the communists and to realize a dream. He loses contact with his family over time and goes through some immigration issues. Then his sister arrives in the country and "rescues" him. After that he meets Helen, who is Theresa's friend, and marries her. The story then moves ahead to describe how the family establishes itself in the foreign land and the conflicts they face amongst themselves.

Honestly, I didn't really enjoy the book. The only character I liked was Theresa. I felt the story became somewhat stagnant in the middle. Finally towards the end, it gained good pace. There is some humor here and there but was not hooked to the story anywhere.