AUTHOR: JENNY ZHANG • CATEGORY: CONTEMPORARY FICTION • PAGES: 301
NOTE- I received my copy of Sour Heart from the good people at Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for my honest review. If you wish to see my review policy please click here.
Centred on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life on the poverty line in 1990s New York City, the stories that make up Sour Heart examine the many ways that family and history can weigh us down, but also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution, to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these seven startling stories of family, femininity, sexuality and otherness will plunge you into the tender and chaotic hearts of narrators you won’t easily forget.
If you are looking for a light hearted read with your predictable happy fluffy ending then this book is not for you. This book I think can be best described as raw. It is at times challenging, painful, loving, and most of all eye opening. This is the first book from the Lenny Imprint (Lena Dunham) and if you are a fan of hers you will have an idea of what to expect.
If it wasn’t for the second story in this book I would have rated it higher. In all honesty I considered not reading past that story because I am a mother and I simply found the topic that was explored much too confronting and something I simply didn’t want to read about. I am pleased that I continued because I really enjoyed all of the other stories, despite parental figures mostly being absent, manipulative or selfish.
The stories themselves are delicately intertwined, with subtle hints of how the prose from each story fitted into the previous one. The way this was done was extremely clever. It was also very smart of Zhang to leave it as seven separate stories from a readers perspective because the content was so heavy. This allowed me to read shorter sections and co-read with a lighter book. I think if it was written as a continuous narrative it would have been too overbearing.
This book made me think about how little I have in common with the characters both culturally and socially. My own dreams have only been bound by my personal limitations not those forced on me by society. No language barriers, cultural differences, racism. I am an Australian female with tanned skin, bronde hair and blue/grey eyes. I couldn’t be anymore stereotypical if I tried. But these people are from an impoverished society not my white cookie cutter middle class Anglo-Saxon world and the balance of trying to assimilate but also keep their cultural identity is incredibly difficult. I believe that if I was in the reverse situation I would struggle terribly.
This book made me think, a lot.
Overall Rating: ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ ￼3/5 teacups
Where to buy a copy:
Happy reading x