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It all started with a missing hymen. If you think that's an odd way to start a review, bear in mind that's exactly how this book starts. Very first line in fact. Fiona Wu is a 28 year old lawyer living in San Francisco. Successful, self assured but still living at home thanks to her Chinese roots and her over protective parents. She'd rather hang out with her pet parakeet than nice Asian boys, but since her parents are desperate to get her married off to one of the latter, she doesn't always get her own way. An appointment at a doctor's office with a view to sorting out the aforementioned missing hymen leads to a chance reunion with a criminally-minded old school friend (last seen setting another pupil on fire), and then the fun really begins.
This is not a book about searching for Mr Right, it's more about freeing yourself and sometimes your city of Mr Wrong. It's the anti-Hello Kitty stance. Fi is not the nice, polite girl her parents want her to be, nodding along in an accommodating way. Instead she has a penchant for the stories of serial killers and their victims, likes the way Cantonese allows her to swear subtly at her father without him realising, and would rather take her own virginity that give it away to an undesirable. That said this book is not really about sex after the first couple of chapters but I'm glad it started the way it did because I loved her dry take on matters, like how her cultural instinct to boil all things influenced the type of dildo she purchased. It was the cross over from modern day America and traditional Chinese values that made this book stand out for me here and in other developments and the author's background (an Oriental lawyer living in San Francisco with her pet bird...) added to the authenticity of it, even allowing for artistic license.
This is not your typical story and Fiona is not your typical protagonist, but the book is all the much better for it. The writing is dark, the humour dry, and the characters sarcastic. Fiona is already teetering on the edge but it's her reunion with Sean that is the final push into a devious world. I loved her ambivalent reaction to discovering what he's up to: she doesn't judge, run fleeing or stay to clap him on the back, she just accepts it and things continue. In some ways Fi is also a bit of a moaner who seems to be happier to stick with the status quo and complain about it than do something to change matters. For example she doesn't really stand up to her parents by moving out or actually refusing the dates they set her up on, but instead has a bit of a whinge and then finds ways to make the best of a bad situation with sometimes brilliant results.
I think it's a good thing the book was shorter than most as the last few chapters seemed to rush a little and push the boundaries of what was reasonable behaviour for the already disgraceful characters. I say this because I enjoyed the book immensely and would have been sad to see it end of a dubious note. It's not a story that will appeal to everyone as it is frequently flippant, reasonably rude and occasionally outrageous, but for those in the right mind set with the appropriate sense of humour I think it will be a hit. It's wicked and it's weird but more than anything it's wonderful and wildly original. Highly recommended
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
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