This novel, by Canadian author Judy Fong Bates, is Multnomah County Library's Everybody Reads choice for 2007, so I thought I'd get a head start and read it. The thing is, though, I didn't really like it that much, which was disappointing. This is definitely not a book I'd suggest to middle schoolers to read, even though the main character of the novel is telling the story of her young adolescence when she and her mother came from China to join her father in a small Ontario town to run the Dragon Cafe. In the first place, I really think middle schoolers would be bored with the novel, but there are also some adult situations in the book which make it a grown-up book.
The most important component of any novel to me personally as a reader is character - and in this novel it was difficult for me to make a strong connection with any of the characters. I certainly had little sympathy for the mother, although she had faced many difficult challenges in her life. And although I felt sorry for the father in the novel, I couldn't really connect with him either. The older brother had nothing in his character that appealed to me, and even the main character, who I felt the strongest pull to, never really pulled me in all the way.
It was interesting to read about the immigrant experience, and from that perspective, I did like it. I will be interested to hear the reactions of others as they read this novel for Everybody Reads. I hope others enjoy it more than I did, clearly some people have or it wouldn't have been chosen, because I love the idea of having a book that so many people in our community have the shared experience of reading. Last year it was fun to hear so many people talking about The Kite Runner (last year's book) and to be able to have that experience strengthen our community. If any parents out there participate in the Everybody Reads program this year, please, let me know what you think - I'll be interested to hear!