Earlier this year, I read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok and absolutely adored it. It has so far been one of my favorite books that I have read for this project, so when I saw that Jean Kwok was releasing a new novel, I was excited to get the chance to read it. It took a while for the book to make its way to me through the library hold process, but Mambo in Chinatown was well worth the wait!
Mambo in Chinatown is a slightly more mature novel than Girl in Translation was in that it follows the worries and life of an adult narrator, but the skill with which Kwok captured the voice of the central character is beautifully similar. Through the narrative voice of Charlie Wong, the reader is able to get a true glimpse inside the life of the child of immigrants coming to terms with herself in a difficult transition period in her life.
The balance that is most fascinating throughout the novel is represented through the difference between Charlie inside and outside Chinatown. Her ability to separate and compartmentalize parts of herself is something that I think many readers would recognize, and the reasons behind it shed a lot of light into the experiences of a person or character in her position.
The novel is full of compelling, complex characters, and I very much enjoyed reading it. I will avidly watch for new books from Jean Kwok in the future. Both of her novels so far have impressed me a huge amount, and I cannot wait to see what she will come out with next.
Reading Level: high school and up