A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK
For fans of Amy Tan, KJ Dell’Antonia, and Kevin Kwan, this “sharp, smart, and gloriously extra” (Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee) debut celebrates a family of estranged Vietnamese women who experiences mishaps and unexpected joy after a psychic makes a startling prediction about their lives.
Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.
It started with their ancestor, Oanh, who dared to leave her marriage for true love—so a fearsome Vietnamese witch cursed Oanh and her descendants so that they would never find love or happiness, and the Duong women would give birth to daughters, never sons.
Oanh’s current descendant Mai Nguyen knows this curse well. She’s divorced, and after an explosive disagreement a decade ago, she’s estranged from her younger sisters, Minh Pham (the middle and the mediator) and Khuyen Lam (the youngest who swears she just runs humble coffee shops and nail salons, not Little Saigon’s underground). Though Mai’s three adult daughters, Priscilla, Thuy, and Thao, are successful in their careers (one of them is John Cho’s dermatologist!), the same can’t be said for their love lives. Mai is convinced they might drive her to an early grave.
Desperate for guidance, she consults Auntie Hua, her trusted psychic in Hawaii, who delivers an unexpected prediction: this year, her family will witness a marriage, a funeral, and the birth of a son. This prophecy will reunite estranged mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins—for better or for worse.
A multi-narrative novel brimming with levity and candor, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is about mourning, meddling, celebrating, and healing together as a family. It shows how Vietnamese women emerge victorious, even if the world is against them.
Huynh debuts with an engaging if overwrought saga of a Vietnamese family curse in Orange County's Little Saigon. After Ly Minh Duong gives the family home to her long-lost eldest daughter, Kim, a rift ensues between Ly Minh and her other daughters, Khuyen, Minh, and Mai. A decade later, middle-aged Mai sees a psychic who predicts a death, a pregnancy, and a grandson, who will finally put an end to the Duong curse that prevented the Duong women from having sons, which was placed on an ancestor who married for love. The news spurs Mai to reconcile with her family before it's too late. Meanwhile, Mai, who was forced by Ly Minh to marry for practicality and not love, pressures her middle daughter, Thuy, to leave her good-guy boyfriend, Andy, since he works for a nonprofit. Mai's college-educated daughters also look down on their cousins Elaine and Christine, who help their mother, Khuyen, run a sleazy "coffee shop," where young bikini-clad women serve drinks. A sudden change in tone derails the final third of the novel, littering what was an otherwise strong, character-driven narrative with implausible slapstick and convenient coincidences. Still, as the Duong sisters reunite and reckon with their family's outmoded beliefs, Huynh pulls off an admirable portrait of well-meaning mothers and their children. Despite the bumps, it's worth checking out.
Relatable and so fun
A fun read that touched on so many universal themes: mothers/daughters, diasporas, immigrant experience, love, life, family. A book for anybody to enjoy and get some flavour of Vietnamese women who are not always main characters in North American books. Kudos to Carolyn Huynh!