Featured Photo by Jordan Reining
Story by Jordan Reining
After a year of reading slumps and abandoned book goals, I decided enough was enough. 2023 would be the year I get back on track with my reading. No more buying books without reading them (maybe). To stay accountable, I present “Reining’s reads of the month”: A column for monthly book reviews, comparisons and in general all things books.
January is over and I am not off to a good start. I’ve read one book. An amazing book that I’m about to review, but one book, nonetheless. Seeing as I started the year with this book, it is only fitting that I start this series with it, too.
“The Fortunes of Jaded Women” by Carolyn Huynh follows the story of mothers, daughters and sisters over the course of a year. With multiple points of view, this novel is centered around maternal relationships. Huynh used her Vietnamese American identity in her writing and centered the story around it. Picking up the pieces of a family through three generations, her book celebrates a family bond while saying it’s okay to follow your own heart.
“Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.”
A quote from “The Fortunes of Jaded Women” by Carolyn Huynh.
When Mai visits her Psychic, she is met with the news that in one year, her family will experience one death, one wedding and the birth of a son. With her family estranged from one another, Mai knows that this could be the chance to reunite or ruin things forever. Going back generations, the Duong family has been cursed since their ancestor, Oanh, chose love for herself. Suffering through the curse, Mai and her family take this year to choose themselves, too. This novel takes us on an exploration of conflict, reconciliation and acceptance. It is Huynh’s debut novel and was released Sept. 2022.
When I began reading this book, it took a few chapters to draw me in. It was filled with character descriptions and seemed slow paced. It’s not the type of book I usually go for, which are fantasy and romantic comedies, but I decided to pick it up anyway.
The strained relationships and bickering were realistic, and the words thrown at each other felt so familiar to real life it was like déjà vu. The chapters were filled with humor but equally lined with powerful quotes. Huynh does an incredible job showing the struggle between escaping the hometown to find better and staying behind to help those you love. The Duong sisters fight with each other and their daughters, but their love is evident in the meddling they do.
Once the chapters started switching narratives, I began to look forward to the next time I would come back to a certain character. I saw myself and my family in a few of them and was anxious to see where they would end up.
I’m not going to spoil it, obviously, but I struggle finding where to begin. I loved the resolution that had happened in this book, and then it threw a curveball. The last page leaves you in silence wanting more. I was taken aback by it. I stared at the last few words trying to gather my thoughts. The book was wrapping up and Huynh had set it up perfectly to be a resolved, happy ever after type of story, but that’s not the kind of story it is. This story took its readers on a ride through family drama and generational trauma. The story continued as the Duong family lived out their lives, but the novel only captures a moment in life: The moments that had the power to change them the most.
Another thing you need to know about me is that I don’t rate books on a specific system like other reviewers might. Most of the time a book is either good or it isn’t. I love it or I don’t, and most of the time I love it. Following that, I loved this book. It was a quick read that I wish I took more time on. Huynh was able to make me feel with this story which I guess is what I look for. I laughed and teared up, though I suspect I would’ve bawled had I taken more time to let everything sink in. I found a part of myself in these characters, with all their flaws and successes. I am eagerly waiting for whatever Huynh writes next.
Jordan Reining is a Lifestyles Reporter for MTSU Sidelines.
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