cover image The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

Jamie Ford. Atria, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-982158-21-7

Ford (Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) explores in his intriguing if melodramatic latest the connections between seven generations of women, beginning with the historical Afong Moy, noted as the first Chinese woman to immigrate to the United States. In 2045, in a storm-besieged Seattle, Afong’s descendant Dorothy is having hallucinations from the points of view of women from the past. Dorothy seeks help from a Native American practitioner of the experimental “science” of epigenetics, which posits that it’s possible to inherit memories. The novel weaves scenes from the lives of other Moys—including a nurse in China in WWII, a student at the radical Summerhill boarding school in Great Britain, a young woman crossing the Pacific, and more—with scenes of Dorothy’s increasingly frantic attempts to hold onto some sort of sanity as a monsoon hits Seattle and her mind shifts between the present and the distant past. Ford sometimes bogs this down with explanations of epigenetics, and some might roll their eyes at the pat ending, but the individual accounts of the women in the family can be gripping. There’s some good storytelling here, but this doesn’t quite stand out amid an increasingly full shelf of multigenerational climate epics. Agent: Kirstin Nelson; Nelson Literary Agency. (Aug.)