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About this book
Half-Asian teenager Grace (but she’d prefer it if you called her “Gray” instead) is dead set on becoming a marine biologist rather than being anything like her mother, Belinda. She’d leave that role to her sister Jess instead, who’s a supermon-in-the-making.
Belinda herself is somewhat obsessed as well, by crop circle books and imagery, and abruptly runs out on her family, flying across the Atlantic in order to study the real things in the English countryside. Grace and her sister are left alone to take care of the house, their rapidly-deteriorating stepfather and their peculiar brother, Squid.
Belinda’s Rings links together the coming of age of a young biracial woman with the mid-life crisis of her mother. With warmth, kindness and a boisterous sense of humour, Corinna Chong introduces us to two lovable and thoroughly original female protagonists: persnickety, precocious Grace, and her impractical, impulsive mother Belinda—very different women who nevertheless persistently circle back into each other’s hearts.
Excerpt from 1. Bathyspheres
Squid’s got three mothers who can’t spank him.
That’s what my stepdad Wiley used to say when Squid got into the goo. Back when he was a baby, you had anything gooey and Squid’d find it. Peanut butter, craft glue, ketchup, little bits of melted tar on the street—smeared all over his cheeks faster than you could say ‘fudge.’ That was code in our family for ‘Squid is covered in something gooey,’ except you had to yell it out, FUUUUUDGE, like a swear word. Mum doesn’t know that people say ‘fudge’ to mean another f-word, so sometimes I’d yell it right in her face to make Jess laugh. Jess never did it herself, squeezed her eyes shut like she was jumping off a building whenever she yelled fudge. She didn’t yell nearly half as loud as me, either.
The problem with spanking was that it didn’t work. Mum only tried it once, in the supermarket. I was there and remember it perfectly. She’d let him out of the shopping cart to toddle around. He was just little. Only a couple months before he’d still had that mini-drunk-person sort of walk that made me want to follow right behind him, holding out my arms, thinking he could topple over any second. By this time he’d gotten to the stage where we had to actually run after him ’cause he’d take off when you weren’t looking. But we were in the cereal aisle and we didn’t think he could do any damage, so we let him scamper around. He liked to punch the cereal boxes, the ones on the bottom shelves that no one wanted anyway. So he was punching, punching away, and every box he could reach was getting a punch, Squid made sure of that. Mum was looking at the generic brand of Frosted Flakes, the one that came in a big milky-coloured bag with no box, so most of the flakes were crumbled into powder.
"Ostensibly, it’s about a mother, father, and three children. But the novel is also about the power of imagination, and the fictions we maintain about ourselves, in order to keep on being the people we are." full review
"It’s a novel about family members who, despite some wildly different frames of reference, keep searching for common ground." full review
"[b]rims with quirkiness and intrigue." full review
"For a relatively short novel, Chong doesn’t waste any words. Every scene is meaningful." full review
"Chong's talent is undeniable ... her future in CanLit is assured."
"Belinda’s Rings’ elaborate web of interconnected images and themes make it overall a terrific and evocative read." full review
"The novel is an exploration of motherhood, what it means to mother and who is a mother. The book is also a story about bonds and what bonds people together to family and friends." full review
"One does not expect to find such an exquisite lyric voice in such a plot and setting (and a first novel), but just about every word in this book sings." full review
"[t]he product of a talented writer with an exceptional knack for crafting characters ... her detail-rich, specific diction is evocative, stylistically distinct and authenticates everything about these characters’ worlds."
"[a] story that percolates with humour and kindness."
"[a]s vibrant as it is original." full review
"Original and quirky. Corinna Chong has created something special with this book." full review
"This is a story rich in characterization, told in entertaining and realistic dialogue, and with which the reader can identify in many instances. It is a mother-daughter journey during which the daughter comes of age and gains wisdom and a recognition of her bond with her mother whose search for a route to the surface is often confusing for her children as well as for herself." full review
"A novel subtly charged with emotion, Belinda's Rings is unmistakably a noteworthy read."
"Especially intriguing because of the ways [it plays] with and against the formal and thematic expectations of coming-of-age tales."