Good Chinese Wife – Susan Blumberg-Kason

Posted 21 August, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 15 Comments


Good Chinese Wife


Title: Good Chinese Wife
Author: Susan Blumberg-Kason
Published: 2014; Pages: 337
Genre: Memoir
Rating: Sigh. We’ll get to that.

In Short: While studying in Hong Kong as a young woman, Susan fell in love with Cai, a Chinese National, and after a short courtship they married.

Why I Read it: A Sourcebooks publicist contacted me to see if I would be interested. I saw “intercultural” and “memoir” and agreed.

Why I Almost Didn’t Finish Good Chinese Wife: You know that I don’t accept many books for review these days and when I do I am always fair and honest in my post. In fact, I would say that more often than not I am not absolutely bowled over by books I receive.  About halfway through GCW I was ready to jump ship. I emailed the publicist to explain the situation but she’s out of the office until September. Go figure. What’s a reader to do?

But why didn’t I almost finish? I found myself irritated by the author and the predicament that she put herself into with her marriage to Cai. I felt judgmental, something I am rarely ever when reading a book, and I began to feel so negatively. This makes me feel like a terrible person, but I just didn’t care when the trainwreck of a marriage was heading. I think that my issues with the book stemmed from the writing style.

The memoir is obviously written with hindsight but it was so heavily input into the dialogue that I was constantly distracted by Susan’s questions about what might have been going on. Mostly, though, I wanted Susan to stand up for herself against her husband and for them to communicate more. It was when I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and start yelling at her that I knew I needed to just walk away. Again, I don’t usually react quite this strongly but it was a rather unsettling feeling.

Why I Did Finish Good Chinese Wife: In the end, curiosity got the better of me. And a little bit of guilt. I flipped through the next couple of chapters and some things of interest happened so I skimmed. And skimmed. And skipped stuff and read stuff until I finally got to the end. I’m glad that I “finished” the book as some of the things that bothered me in the first half were recognized by Blumberg-Kason. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Susan’s story; I’m glad that she eventually learned those lessons herself and shared them with others..

Bottom Line: Good Chinese Wife wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, but the feedback on Goodreads is very strong. If you want my copy, holler and I’ll send it to you.

How quick are you to abandon a book? What about when that book is for a publicity tour?





15 Responses to “Good Chinese Wife – Susan Blumberg-Kason”

  1. Hmm I would have been interested in reading it too, based on the description.

    I am most likely to abandon nonfiction books due to problems I have with the writer’s voice– I didn’t finish 3 Cups of Tea for that reason (which flowed through all the other problems…). I also stopped reading a YA dystopian the other day because there were just too many plot holes for me to handle. But if I made a commitment to someone, I would skim like you did. Good move.

  2. The description sounds great to me, too. This is exactly why I haven’t accepted review copies or done blog tours lately :(

    There was one NetGalley lapse at the beginning of the summer, but thankfully I ended up loving both of those books. It’s harder for me to abandon review books.

  3. Jennygirl

    Nice review Trish! I think you explained your dislike perfectly and honestly. Good critique.
    As for abandoning books; the only kind I don’t abandon quickly are read-a-long books. I have a copy of Sparrow waiting….

  4. Meg

    I totally get where you’re coming from, though I was really absorbed in this one. It’s a weird book to say I “enjoyed” because, you know, that’s not quite the right word . . . the subject matter is so tough, but I thought Susan detailed her experiences fairly. Though I was often frustrated with her, the evolution and hope was enough to keep me going. I read the whole book in a few hours earlier this month and have thought about it often since finishing.

  5. Thanks for the honest review! This isn’t the type of book I’d normally reach for though I do like the cover. I’m glad you were able to finish and see some of the issues resolved-ish. I think I’ll pass on this one though. I’ve read enough books lately where I want to yell at the main character.

  6. Very well explained! I think it’s perfectly okay to abandon ship – even if it’s for a book tour. They’re sending you a book for an honest review – and sometimes an honest review is “I couldn’t finish it.” Perfectly legit as long as you explain why, and you did that very well!

  7. I am becoming more inclined not to finish books these days, partly because there are so many that I want to read and … well … I’m not getting any younger. :-)

    It sounds like this memoir got mixed reviews. I appreciate the author’s courage in coming out with what sounds like a painful and difficult story. Nevertheless, I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  8. Sorry you didn’t like it much, but I think I still want to read it. If you haven’t already got someone in mind to send it to, I’d like it. I can send you a list of the books I’ve got that I don’t “have” to keep so you could choose one for me to send to you.

  9. I love the way you explained this. I have been known to find serious problems with a few book club books and ended up skimming just to get to the end but I always wonder if I was unfair or justified in letting it go.

  10. I have given up on tours because I like to abandon books when they aren’t working for me. But just because you accept a book for review doesn’t mean you have to actually review it!

  11. I used to persist through a book no matter how much I hated it. That was years ago. Over time, I began to feel less guilty about abandoning books. And lately, I give a book 5-10 pages, and if it doesn’t pull me in, I read a few reviews, maybe give it another 5 pages, and then call it quits. Sometimes, it’s only a few paragraphs. This is really difficult with review books though, because, hey, I agreed to read and review, right? Still, I’ve gotten a lot better – I used to force myself through boring books before.

  12. I don’t know why it’s more difficult for me to be brutally honest when I don’t like a book that someone has sent to me rather than one I’ve purchased on my own, but it is, and thus, I rarely ever accept books for review anymore. For books I chose on my own, I generally try to read at least 50-80 pages before making a judgment as to whether to keep going or not. But there are always exceptions. Sometimes, I know after two or three pages that it’s time to call it quits and other times I just know to keep on reading. Sorry this one was a disappointment.

  13. I hate it when that happens. :-( It used to take me a lot to abandon a book, but not so much anymore. I think having less time to read has made me more picky. All this said when I just finished a book last night that I didn’t especially care for. I guess, for me, what keeps me reading is whether I care about the characters or people the story is about and what happens to them. If I don’t, I have nothing to lose by not finishing the book. If I care, even a little, I keep going.