Mambo in Chinatown

Riverhead. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781594632006. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101632550. F
Drawing on personal experience, Kwok follows up her New York Times best-selling Girl in Translation with a new novel featuring 22-year-old Charlie Wong, a dishwasher who gets caught up in the world of professional ballroom dancing. Charlie lives in New York's Chinatown, sharing her life with her noodle-maker father and her extremely bright 11-year-old sister, Lisa. At Lisa's urging, Charlie quits her dishwasher gig to take on a job as a receptionist at a dance studio. As Charlie's life begins to change, fate steps in to give her a chance to find her own identity as a professional dance instructor, while having her family believe that her job entails working with computers.
VERDICT Though the novel tries to cover too many issues and the characters (especially Charlie's dad) are more unevenly drawn than those in Girl in Translation, Kwok ventures more deeply into traditional Chinese culture to give readers a satisfying, heartfelt story about the individual's triumph over life's hardships. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]

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