cover image The Fortunes of Jaded Women

The Fortunes of Jaded Women

Carolyn Huynh. Atria, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-982188-73-3

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. (Sept.)