Loveboat, Taipei was suggested into my hands by a colleague at work the other day. She’d been raving about the book for several days and decided to write a staff recommendation of the book. I read the recommendation after she wrote it, and I had to write the book.
The colleague is also a friend, and she is evil that way. She is responsible for exacerbating my book habit. I guess there are worse addictions. There is a word for this problem that I have had since I was a kid – Tsundoku. But I will save that for another independent post. Back to the novel.
Loveboat, Taipei is a wonderful debut novel by Abigail Hing Wen. This is her debut novel, and it is an excellent debut. I would categorize it as a modern day Pride and Prejudice with Asian/Chinese cultural commentary tied in.
Loveboat, Taipei follows the protagonist, Even, through a coming-of-age journey. Even has just graduated from high school and reached adulthood, but her parents are continuing to control her life. Just as she discovers that she has been admitted to Tisch in addition to a joint BS/MD program at Northwestern, her parents decide to send her to an educational summer camp in Taiwan. At this camp, she will learn/improve her Chinese, study Chinese medicine, study calligraphy, and be forced to follow strict rules. This last minute trip results in Even having to give up performing the dance that she choreographed with he friend in the local parade. Her parents also find her acceptance letter to Tisch and her mother throws it away and talks to Even about her duty and honor to the family. Her entire life is one big guilt trip due to the constant pressures from her parents and the constant reiteration of all of the things that they have given up to bring her to America and give her access to all of these opportunities. Opportunities that she does not want. Her parents want her to be a doctor, but she gets queasy at the sight of blood.
Even packs her bags and sends a note to Tisch declining her place in their program. She boards the plane to Taiwan in a daze and crosses the globe to study Mandarin, but also to learn more about her family’s heritage and culture. Something that she has not been exposed to as much as the other young adults at the camp.
She makes the decision to break every one of her family’s rules on this trip and makes several missteps that bring shame to her family. But she also finds herself, her inner strength, and love and friendship. She also learns to love her culture despite her parents trying to force it on her. We learn that sometimes if you give people the freedom to grow and learn on their own, they learn to appreciate their heritage and family much more than when it is forced on them.
If you love Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls, you will love Ever. Ever is almost a combination of Lane and Rory in some ways. The strict parents, the strict rules, the focus on honor, the focus on loving your heritage and culture, and the focus on marrying the right person are all there. As Even gets more comfortable in her own skin, we learn the power of independence and that love will help you overcome many obstacles.
Off to read and write a bit more before work. I might try to get a nap in as well. Until next time, Happy Reading!