I liked it, but I think it would be hard to love. The novel felt like a memoir, to the point where I found myself wishing that Fong Bates had simply written more directly about her childhood. I found it so hard to connect with Su-Jen/Annie, the main character, who observes the people around her without doing anything, without even reacting. I don't think it was Su-Jen's character to use her voice, but she could have shared how she felt with the reader. I know, the theme of the book is "swallow your bitterness", but it would have been nice to know how Su-Jen felt about what she was suppressing. I guess it's arguable that she was suppressing her feelings from her own self, too. I guess?
Everything else about the book is delightful. My heart ached for Su-Jen's father, who sacrificed everything for his family, who worked so hard even into old age, who knew what his white customers thought about him but didn't let himself be hurt by them. And for her mother, who was just so unhappy, whose life had been changed for the worse by her move to Canada, who could feel happiness within reach but who had to sacrifice that happiness, for her family. And even for her brother, who was just a few years too old to be fully Canadian and free from the old traditions like Su-Jen was. And I loved Charlotte and her quirky family so much.
I would love to read more books about first-generation immigrants. This book was completely worthwhile, and despite my frustration with its main character, I would recommend it.