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About this book
Disappearing Moon Cafe was a stunning debut novel that has become a Canadian literary classic. An unflinchingly honest portrait of a Chinese Canadian family that pulses with life and moral tensions, this family saga takes the reader from the wilderness in nineteenth-century British Columbia to late twentieth-century Hong Kong, to Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Intricate and lyrical, suspenseful and emotionally rich, it is a riveting story of four generations of women whose lives are haunted by the secrets and lies of their ancestors but also by the racial divides and discrimination that shaped the lives of the first generation of Chinese immigrants to Canada.
Each character, intimately drawn through Lee’s richness of imagery and language, must navigate a world that remains inexorably “double”: Chinese and Canadian. About buried bones and secrets, unrequited desires and misbegotten love, murder and scandal, failure and success, the plot reveals a compelling microcosm of the history of race and gender relations in this country.
Search for Bones
Wong Gwei Chang
He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind. He had to stop and rest in a shaded spot, so he found a smooth, flat stone to sit on, beside a stream that meandered off around a sharp bend. He was bone-tired from all this walking, watching the land dry out and the trees thin out. He wasn’t thirsty; he was hungry, the last of his provisions gone days ago. So very hungry, so very tired of quenching his thirst on cold mountain water, sweet as it was
He wanted to complain out loud, “Why send men out to starve to death?” But the wind snatched the words out of his mouth, and even he couldn’t tell if he had spoken them or not. He looked up at the unsettled sky and realized that if a freak storm should happen, he would be finished. He slapped his knees and shook his head. Ill-equipped, ill-informed, he was doomed from the start.
Ha! he thought. A bone-searching expedition! We’ll find bones all right, gleaming white, powdery in the hot sun, except they’ll be our own. His feet ached relentlessly, throbbing cold from wading through ditches and icy creeks. Already, holes in the thinned soles of his borrowed boots.
“I suppose I should be damned grateful I am still alive to feel the ache!” he cursed out loud. Then there was the loneliness. He didn’t want to think about the loneliness; it was the most dangerous struggle.
“Powerfully and elaborately wrought, Lee’s first novel traces generations of a Chinese-Canadian family and their ties to (and clashes with) one another, their culture, and their land in China and North America . . . the layers of experience, emotion and cultural identity of succeeding generations build to an abundantly detailed story.”
“This ambitious and vastly entertaining first novel follows four generations of a troubled Chinese-Canadian family through its gradual and often painful assimilation and eventual disintegration . . . The lively, often riotous spirit of Disappearing Moon Cafe is never lost in the epic sprawl. This is a moving, deeply human tale about the high price of assimilation, the loneliness of being of two cultures but no longer really belonging to either and the way in which the sordid secrets of the past can cast long, tragic shadows . . . If Gabriel Garcia Marquez had been Canadian-Chinese, and a woman, A Hundred Years of Solitude might have come out a little bit like this.”
“A feisty, complex, and award-winning first novel.”
"Disappearing Moon Cafe is a landmark. In 1990, it marked out a new and necessary site in Canadian literature, and this beautiful new edition, accompanied by an afterword by Chris Lee and by Kamberouli’s telling conversation with SKY Lee, affirms the status of this novel as a singularly core text in the canon of Asian Canadian literature." full review