THE CHINESE KNOT AND OTHER STORIES by Lien Chao (Tsar), 126 pages, $18.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
Fiction works when it has a unique perspective, and Lien Chao's slim volume certainly has that.
All these stories are told from the point of view of single Chinese-Canadian women, who make up an intriguing demographic. Many of them came to Canada in the 80s and 90s only to experience painful family conflict - usually ending in divorce - once they got here.
In African Lion Safari, a single mother struggles with feelings of loneliness, to the point that she's close to accepting a relationship with a man who's nice but kind of dreary.
In another story, a woman discovers that an old friend in China could be much more.
The title tale, the strongest, is about an English teacher who keeps getting hit up by her students for false documentation so they can stay in Canada. Here Chao uncovers the fascinating culture clash between desperate immigrants and those people comfortable with their landed status.
Chao needs a stronger editorial push, however. A good editor could extract a few more descriptives - at times the prose is too lean - and would have asked key questions so that threads wouldn't hang. African Lion Safari, for example, is a satisfying story vis-à-vis main character Katherine, but what happens to her daughter?
There is good energy in these stories, and they give insight into experiences that might be new to many readers.