By Wai Chim
Read by Christina Ho
An authentic novel about growing up in a migrant Asian family with a mother who is suffering from a debilitating mental illness.
Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she's not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father's restaurant, she's taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father's new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren't right at home, she's starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.
But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother's condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important listen.
My thoughts: The title of this book caught my attention. I love dumplings so I just new I have to read this book! I was not expecting the roller coaster of emotions that I went through while listening to it. I have to say, I absolutely loved it!
The story centered around Anna, a young Chinese-Australian girl. As the oldest of her siblings, Anna was trying to do her best to help raise her siblings. In the beginning, Anna's mother appeared to show a lot of symptoms of depression and schizophrenia. Her mother would stay in bed all day for several days and would sometimes yell at Anna and her sister in the middle of the night. What made things more difficult were that Anna's father was not there to support them. Instead, he stayed working all day at his restaurant and slept there instead of going home to his family. My heart completely went out to Anna and her siblings as they tried to live life as normally they could. Anna's worries for her siblings and taking the mother role hit close to home for me.
This book raised various topics/issues that made this audiobook a worth-it read. It heavily focused on mental illness but it also talked about immigration, stereotypes, racism, the importance of education, family relationships, and parental role models (or lack of). Though this book was set in Australia and the main character was of Chinese descent, the topics that it brought up could be relatable to many people of various cultures. In addition, the heart behind the story was what won me. I could not help but feel as if I were Anna herself. I even cried at the end as I felt Anna's hope and anguish.
The reader for this audiobook production did a fantastic job. Christina Ho captivated all of the characters' voices well, including all the accents. She had great tone and great pacing. It was easy to get swept up into the story and get lost in it. Ms. Ho brought the story to life.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this audiobook. The topics that were raised were relatable and I felt connected with Anna's character. This has become a new favorite of mine! I rate it: