Thursday, April 23, 2015

G564 Book Review of Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Name of Book: Diamond Head

Author: Cecily Wong

ISBN: 978-0-06-234543-1

Publisher: Harper

Type of book: Hawaii, red string of fate, 1900s-1964, funeral, China, WWII, relationships, family, father/son, husband/wife, mother/daughter, Guandong, mistakes, wealth, soul mates, destiny

Year it was published: 2015


A sweeping debut spanning China to Hawaii that follows four generations of a wealthy shipping family whose rise and decline is riddled with secrets and tragic love—from a young, powerful new voice in fiction

“Diamond Head takes the family saga to a new and very high place. . . . Readers will follow the fortunes of this family breathlessly, hungry for more.” —Mary Gordon, author of Circling My Mother

At the turn of the nineteenth-century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. The parable of the red string of fate, the cord which binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes for mistakes in love, passing a destructive knot down the family line.

When Frank is murdered, his family is thrown into a perilous downward spiral. Left to rebuild in their patriarch’s shadow, the surviving members of the Leong family try their hand at a new, ordinary life, vowing to bury their gilded past. Still, the island continues to whisper—fragmented pieces of truth and chatter, until a letter arrives two decades later, carrying a confession that shatters the family even further.

Now the Leong’s survival rests with young Theresa, Frank Leong’s only grandchild, eighteen and pregnant, the heir apparent to her ancestors’ punishing knots.

Told through the eyes of the Leong’s secret-keeping daughters and wives and spanning The Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor to 1960s Hawaii, Diamond Head is a breathtakingly powerful tale of tragic love, shocking lies, poignant compromise, aching loss, heroic acts of sacrifice and, miraculous hope.


There weren't truly evil or truly good characters, but all fall somewhere in between due to life decisions or choices they make. The important characters are the women; Hong, Lin, Amy and Theresa. While the men also have some importance, but almost all don't really outshine the women, aside from Bohai. Hong is a strong woman and a former sister-in-law to Lin who made some important choices in what to do with her life. Lin is the family matriarch and is best described as kind and charitable and a very big hearted and loving woman who does her best to atone for her mistakes. Amy is not a likable character, at least for me she wasn't, and she cares more for money and wealth rather than the heart. Theresa is observant and an attention hog of sorts. The main men were Frank and Bohai, father and son. Frank was wealthy who cared deeply for his family and wife, while Bohai is best described as the strong and silent type who shows love through actions rather than words.


There are no clear cut answers to questions


The story is written in first and third person narratives; the third person takes place in 1964 at a funeral and it jumps from different characters' thoughts instantaneously, while the first person narratives are done from different women such as Lin, Hong, Amy and Theresa. In beginning the main stories tend to jump, beginning in 1909, going to 1900 and then to 1914 before going chronologically until the 1960s, talking about the stories that comprised family history. The 1964 sections of the story focus on funeral, and each chapter contains the story that is reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle, the 1964 as a frame, while the stories are the innards and the difficult pieces.

Author Information:
(From TLC website)

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Cecily WongAbout Cecily Wong

Cecily Wong is Chinese-Hawaiian. She was born on Oahu and raised in Oregon. Diamond Head grew from family stories told to her by her parents and grandparents. Wong graduated from Barnard College, where the first pages of this novel won the Peter S. Prescott Prize for Prose Writing. She lives in New York City.
Find out more about Cecily at her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


I've greatly enjoyed 80 to 90 percent of the book, really loving the details and learning a lot about Hawaiian and Chinese culture even more, especially since the main characters come from Canton area. However, as the story went on almost towards the end, I grew frustrated with the plot because I felt that I couldn't really understand how the past and present tied up together, and I have to admit that the knot almost at the end didn't really make up for my frustration with the story. The story and the plot did give me a lot of ideas and taught me a lot about the red string of fate, and the writing is very rich and detailed, so yes, a diamond that needs some work towards the end. What's really fascinating about the book are the relationships and trying to make sense of what the author has created, although I feel that the women are sort of mirrors that reflect one particular man in the story. Also, if you are seeking a story where Asian men are treated as human beings and no white prince charming appears, then this is the right book.

This is for TLC Book Tours

Cecily’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 14th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Wednesday, April 15th: From L.A. to LA
Thursday, April 16th: Literary Feline
Friday, April 17th: Broken Teepee
Monday, April 20th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Wednesday, April 22nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, April 23rd: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 28th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, April 29th: Fuelled by Fiction
Monday, May 4th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, May 5th: Mom’s Small Victories
Wednesday, May 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, May 7th: Unshelfish
Monday, May 11th: Time 2 Read
Tuesday, May 12th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, May 14th: Drey’s Library
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that you enjoyed this for the most part, even though you didn't quite love it in the end. Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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