“Because there was nothing wrong with having Vietnamese daughters. It was how the world treated them that turned it into a curse.”
Carolyn Huynh’s The Fortunes of Jaded Women (Atria Books 2022) was a highly anticipated release for me. Magical realism, historical fiction, Asian diaspora, a matrilineal family saga… I was sold. Now that I’ve finished, I feel a bit like I was duped; it just doesn’t deliver.
I was truly anticipating more Peach Blossom Spring, The Mountains Sing meets The Kitchen God’s Wife. Instead, it’s giving more of a less decadent Kevin Kwan vibe. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a cute read, but it’s far more candy & cozy than I expected.
Expectations aside, it would have benefited from less characters and/or significantly more development. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters because they were presented in bursts of plot lines that jumped forward months.
At the novel’s core, is the curse. The family was cursed when Oanh Du’o’ng left her husband for another man. Her ex-mother-in-law sought out a witch to curse the family to only have daughters – no sons or grandsons or great grandsons in the family tree. Since only men can invite the ancestors into the homes and the curse also included bad luck in love, the curse was intended to keep the women unhappy in both life and death. Every generation was met with daughters, unhappiness, and bitterness.
But a psychic in Hawaii, a traditional herbalist, and the death of a matriarch might just provide enough magic to break the curse, bring a splintered family together, and call the ancestors home.
I wish there were more character development, particularly in the eight granddaughters. There is some great stuff there, but it’s barely scratching the surface, and this novel had ample room to grow – it’s not even 300 pages. It’s cute, but just a bit empty.