I fell in love with Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, and was thrilled to see that her sophomore novel, Mambo in Chinatown was being published this summer. Sometimes it is difficult to live up to a first novel that was so wonderful, but Kwok has managed to do it again.
Mambo in Chinatown kept me up late last night as I read on and off all day long, unable to put the book down until I knew what happened to Charlie and Lisa Wong.
Charlie works with her father in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, barely eking out their existence. When she manages to get a job at a dance company's receptionist, she is sure that her good luck won't last and she'll be back to washing dishes soon. Although her receptionist skills are lacking, Charlie's mother had once been a dancer, and Charlie is built like one herself. It doesn't take long for the studio owners to encourage Charlie to take up dance herself.
However, there are a lot of struggles Charlie must deal with. Despite Charlie's excitement about dancing, she is unable to tell her father, who is certain to find this job unacceptable. And her sister, Lisa, eleven years her junior, seems to be struggling with some chronic health problem. Her father's Chinese background has him looking to Eastern medicine practices, which don't seem to be helping Lisa at all.
Kwok throws in a bit of romance as well, and I couldn't help but hope for happiness for Charlie.
My only complaint (and it is a minor one) is that I felt as though the end was too tidily wrapped up. Lisa's issues are resolved quickly. Charlie finds happiness. And they all lived happily ever after. At least that is what it felt like. And yet, I loved Mambo in Chinatown and I can hardly wait to see what else Kwok writes.