The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

Atria. Aug. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781982158217. $28. F
Ford (Love and Other Consolation Prizes) writes a fictional, multigenerational account of the women in a Chinese American family. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the seven Moys, from Afong Moy (the first Chinese woman to arrive in the U.S., in 1834), to Dorothy Moy in 2045 and Annabel Moy in 2086. Shared familial trauma is the women’s heirloom, proving the basis of the book—that trauma can be inherited and transmitted. Readers are introduced to 14-year-old Afong whose ah ma is preparing her to be wedded to Dei Yu, who has just passed away. As Afong’s ah ma teaches her the way for a wife to mourn, the author drives home the point: “They both knew she did not need a lesson in grief. She had been born a woman.” Two centuries later, Dorothy attempts to break free from the cycle of carrying her predecessors’ pain, by participating in an experimental epigenetic therapy. Throughout the novel, Ford (who is a man) acutely captures the plight of women across time. Dorothy is the most developed character, but each of the Moy women will leave readers wanting to know more.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing mistake, the original version of this review gave an incorrect title for one of Ford’s previous works. (His previous novels include 2017’s Love and Other Consolation Prizes and 2013’s Songs of Willow Frost.) LJ regrets the error.

VERDICT Ford’s tragically beautiful book will make readers cry and smile.
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