Having relocated from China to Toronto, Kang is learning to assimilate into the Western culture of Canada. Her decision to move from her homeland was triggered by two things. When Kang was 12 years old, her older sister (then 17) was raped. The ostracization her sister suffered made an impression on Kang who, since that time, has avoided contact with boys/men. As Kang grew, she suffered from the unkind words and glances of others because she was unmarried – a spinster. Kang doesn’t dislike men, she simply avoids getting close to them. As she sets about applying to university to obtain her teaching certificate, she finds a position as companion to a retired teacher. The position comes with a private apartment so Kang immediately accepts. The teacher, named Tania, is Russian and is writing her memoirs.
During her first year at university, Kang becomes friendly with Brian, Tania’s nephew, who is rumored to be gay. Because of this, Kang feels comfortable around Brian and doesn’t see him as a threat. To earn some extra money, Kang agrees to edit Tania’s manuscript and finds herself drawn into the woman’s life in Russia. This interests Kang because her own father once attended the very same university as Tania. Could there be some shared acquaintances?
As she navigates the streets of Toronto, Kang grows closer to Brian and is taken aback when he finally reveals that he is not gay – simply rooming with another fellow to share expenses. It isn’t until Kang and Brian make a trip to Russia to see the places that Tania speaks of in her memoirs that their relationship takes a turn. There are secrets to be uncovered and the reader will surely have an Ah ha! moment or two.
Like her other stories, Ms. Roy gives us an in-depth look at the cross-culture that exists for many post-revolutionary Chinese who made the journey to Canada in search of freedoms not easily found in their homeland. Richly woven characters and realistic settings made this story jump off the pages. A bit slow to start but once involved you won’t want to put it down. As a couple of other reviewers noted, the ending seemed a bit rushed but it doesn’t take away from the story.
Note: The author provided me with a copy of the book for review purposes.
Rating: 4 stars