Pieces of Gold

Nancy Young Mosny, Author Bantam Books $9.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-553-38020-0
An atmospheric first novel by Mosny, former staff writer and editor at Glamour, explores the intricacies of a close-knit family of Chinese-Americans when the matriarch is weakened by a stroke. Jenny, who has married ""white-ghost"" Tomas, and is raising three ""American"" children in New Jersey, hears from her brother that their mother, Ma Ma, is in the hospital. The ensuing year of her mother's healing is a struggle for Jenny. To be a good Chinese daughter (as the precious only girl, Jenny is her mother's ""thousand pieces of gold"" ) and take care of Ma Ma while also functioning as a wife and mother, proves a crushing emotional responsibility. Mosny is most effective with the chapters in Jenny's first-person narration, with their true-ringing family dynamics, especially the raw currents between the newly invalided Ma Ma and Jenny's father, Ba Ba. In flashbacks the reader finds an ironic depiction of their previous lives in China and on these shores, which explains some but not enough of why family members behave as they do. While Mosny attempts to portray the difficulties faced by a particular generation worried over ailing parents and their own mortality, complicated here by ethnic background, she also intends to provide a picture of the elders' past to cast light on the family's present situation. Sadly, this light is far too dim and what might have been the more interesting of the two stories goes nowhere. Though Jenny concludes that the stroke has actually helped Ma Ma to transcend her tightly restricted experience, the reader is ultimately frustrated by not knowing enough about the characters, despite the fascinating glimpses of Chinese family culture. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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