The Better Mother

The Better Mother

Jen Sookfong Lee / Apr 08, 2020
The Better Mother From a master of family dynamics comes this vivid tale of two misfits who find each other while stumbling toward their own true identities In eight year old Danny Lim has been sent to buy cigare
  • Title: The Better Mother
  • Author: Jen Sookfong Lee
  • ISBN: 9780307399502
  • Page: 345
  • Format: Hardcover
  • From a master of family dynamics comes this vivid tale of two misfits who find each other while stumbling toward their own true identities In 1958, eight year old Danny Lim has been sent to buy cigarettes for his father, when he realizes that he has lost the money Frantic, he rushes through Vancouver s Chinatown and behind a nightclub, where he sees Miss Val, a long timeFrom a master of family dynamics comes this vivid tale of two misfits who find each other while stumbling toward their own true identities In 1958, eight year old Danny Lim has been sent to buy cigarettes for his father, when he realizes that he has lost the money Frantic, he rushes through Vancouver s Chinatown and behind a nightclub, where he sees Miss Val, a long time burlesque dancer Danny is enraptured with her sequined garters and silk robe, and Val, touched by his fascination, gives him a pack of cigarettes and her silk belt Years later, Danny spends his days working as a wedding photographer and his nights cruising Stanley Park, far away from the home where his parents and sister live He realizes that the key to understanding himself and his family lies in his connection to Miss Val, and he is determined to find her Before she became the Siamese Kitten, a major player on the North American circuit, Miss Val was Valerie Nealy, a feisty girl growing up in a rundown house beside the Fraser River But to find the stardom she thought she wanted, she had to make a series of seemingly irrevocable decisions Set mostly during an unseasonably hot summer in Vancouver in 1982 when HIV AIDS was spreading rapidly, The Better Mother brims with undeniable tragedy, but resounds with the power of friendship, change and truth It will cement Jen Sookfong Lee s reputation as one of this country s finest young novelists.
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      345 Jen Sookfong Lee
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    About "Jen Sookfong Lee"

      • Jen Sookfong Lee

        Jen Sookfong Lee writes, talks on the radio and loves her slow cooker.In 2007, Knopf Canada published Jen s first novel, The End of East, as part of its New Face of Fiction program Hailed as an emotional powerhouse of a novel, The End of East shines a light on the Chinese Canadian story, the repercussions of immigration and the city of Vancouver.Shelter, Jen s first fiction for young adults, was published in February 2011 as part of Annick Press Single Voice series It follows a young girl as she struggles to balance her first and dangerous love affair with a difficult and demanding family.Called straight ahead page turning brilliance by The National Post and shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The Better Mother, Jen s sopho novel, was published by Knopf in May 2011 Set in Vancouver during the mid 20th century and early 1980s, The Better Mother is about the accidental friendship between Miss Val, a longtime burlesque dancer, and Danny Lim, a wedding photographer trying to reconcile his past with his present.A popular radio personality, Jen was the writing columnist for CBC Radio One s On the Coast and All Points West for three years She appears regularly as a columnist on The Next Chapter and Definitely Not the Opera, and is a frequent co host of the Studio One Book Club Jen is a member of the writing group SPiN and is represented by the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency.Born and raised in East Vancouver, Jen now lives in North Burnaby with her husband, son and hoodlum of a dog.


    1. Jen Sookfong Lee s soon to be released novel The Better Mother focuses on the intricacies and complexities of family dynamics Weaving together the story of photographer Danny Lim and former burlesque dancer Miss Val aka The Siamese Kitten , the novel touches upon such issues as AIDS, prostitution, and homosexuality.I have been gorging myself with a lot of YA fiction lately, so when I discovered that I had won a copy of The Good Mother from I was excited for a change from my recent reading habits [...]

    2. I won this book from first reads giveaways I normally don t read this kind of book, but I ll try anything While I enjoyed reading it, and wasn t necessarily disappointed, there were a few things that were a bit off for me The novel has two interconnected tales that of Val, a Burlesque dancer whose peak of popularity happened in the 50 s, and Danny, a gay man of Chinese descent who works as a photographer in the early 80s.I found Val s story to be poignant and relevant to the book s title She wa [...]

    3. At first, this book really frustrated me, as I felt something was missing, but I couldn t quite articulate it There was something wrong However, by the end of the book, the themes and the depth of the story really came together and worked.The author did many things right in this book The historical research and setting were well done There were large sections on the burlesque culture in the 1950s and beyond, and a section on the relationship between a young white woman and a much older Chinese r [...]

    4. Jen Sookfong Lee weaves together the stories of two people from very different circumstances who are ultimately shaped by each other The same themes of family, identity, and loss run through each of their tales I found the characters complex both flawed and beautiful No one is what they seem at first glance.While the ending does not wrap up plot points cleanly, I found the conclusion perfectly satisfying Though typically I dread books that end similarly it seems it could be lazy or rushed I thou [...]

    5. Jen Sookfong Lee is an artist who uses words to create images that allow us view the soul of another Central to the story is Danny a young homosexual man living in Vancouver during the HIV AIDS epidemic and Val a retired burlesque dancer who Danny first encountered when he was 8 and who epitomized understanding, kindness and beauty which was lacking in young Danny s life Sookfong Lee shows us that we are all shaped, molded and defined by our life experiences and the people we encounter but it is [...]

    6. I won this as a Firstreads Giveaway, and really enjoyed it I was fascinated by both characters stories Val s than Danny s There was a random chapter near the end of the book from Danny s mother s perspective that I did not think really fit for me it did not add any new perspective to Danny s relationship with his parents, or even any insight into Betty herself.Great book, I recommend it

    7. I won this book through the Goodread giveaways, and thought it was okay I liked the author s style of writing a lot I found Miss Val s character especially engaging and would have loved to have read the whole book from her perspective I wasn t crazy about the other character and felt like their connection seemed forced.

    8. I knew nothing about this book when I first started reading it other than it was canlit chosen for book club by one of my friends who was anticipating it being a good book.The book has two stories in it, one of Danny, a second generation Chinese Canadian, and Miss Val, an exotic dancer who grew up in a small logging down outside of Vancouver, covering from the 1940 s to 1982, when the AIDs epidemic was just starting to sweep through the gay communities in Canada Although I had little expectation [...]

    9. It s 1982 and thirty two year old Danny Lim has returned to his parents home after leaving at age eighteen to escape the constant demands of his father and the continual questioning from his mother He has returned because his sister, Cindy, told him I can t do it by myself any all they do is wonder where I am Danny felt he never really belonged He had been meeting Cindy for drinks once a week for the last thirteen years at various bars and restaurants in the Vancouver area Danny enters the house [...]

    10. Wonderful evocative descriptions that put you in the heart of Vancouver during the 80s I love the main characters Danny and Val, both estranged from their respective families and from general society which is really all they have in common except that they are fascinating Jen Sookfong Lee will be speaking at the opening panel of the 2017 Writers Union of AGM Writing the World Now and as a co panelist I look forward to our discussion as well as reading of her books.

    11. This book is about identity and acknowledging who you are Everyone is worried about what their family, friends and neighbours will think of them if they knew their dark secrets.The lives of two strangers intersect Danny Lim a Chinese boy who grows up gay in the 80 s when AIDS was first recognized as a disease and Miss Val Valerie who is a burlesque dancer in Chinatown They give each other the courage to no longer hide from those they love.Danny s relationship with his parent s is strained He fea [...]

    12. A wonderful novel, moving between years The main character is Danny Lim Danny grew up in Vancouver s Chinatown, but left as soon as he became 18, not wanting the life his parents envisioned for him Danny is struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality and remains in the closet to all but his sister and close friends He works as a wedding photographer but dreams of a photography exhibit of his personal work When Danny was a child he had an encounter with an exotic dancer that he has never f [...]

    13. I can not begin to tell you how much I loved this book It took me right back to my bookseller days when I was reading books by tons of really young, talented writers coming out of the UBC Writing Program I loved that this book took place in Vancouver so I could picture everywhere the narrators were talking about Vancouver was as much a character as Danny and Val The book went back and forth telling Danny s story a young, gay photographer in his 30 s when AIDS was first diagnosed in Vancouver in [...]

    14. Living in a world of his own making and escaping from a house in which he never belonged are his two successes p 14 5 Leaving was one of two choices He could stay, and work in the curio shop for the rest of his life He would marry a girl he barely knew or barely tolerated, and live in this house with his parents, eating the same food, staring at them staring at him If he left, non one would notice him He would be invisible, moving around this city or another one, one body among many life unseen, [...]

    15. The Better Mother was a moving story about a young Chinese man named Danny and the exotic dancer Val that he meets by chance as a child in a damp Vancouver alleyway One would think that the two would have no business being friends but they find comfort sharing their stories and developing the strength to face the truths that they have been hiding from their whole lives The obligation and truth that entangles us which we label family and the beauty of love and friendship are inherent themes in th [...]

    16. This is the story of two very interesting people a closeted gay man living in Vancouver just as the AIDS crisis is being discovered amongst the gay population and a former Burlesque dancer They are parallel stories and both hold up on their own My only criticism is the way the author linked both stories characters feels a bit forced Other than that, a very satisfying novel to read.

    17. This book is about two people whose lives intersect briefly and then come together many years later I enjoyed the story of the aged ex stripper much than the closeted, conflicted, Chinese Canadian man The descriptions of Vancouver in the 40s to the 80s were really fun to read.

    18. This Vancouver based story was a little slow to start Danny s pull away from his Chinese family was a little drawn out, but once Val arrived on the scene, the story became engaging and I couldn t put the book down.

    19. This book is a satisfying blend of LGBTQ Lit and Chinese Canadian fiction It s a page turner, but a bit forgettable.

    20. This book is not what I expected at all Part of it was written from a males perspective by a female writer, and that messes with my head a bit Definitely some interesting bits in the book though.

    21. It was interesting to read a story set in Vancouver and told from the perspective of a gay man at the time when AIDS aka the gay disease was surfacing.

    22. A good novel about mothers and family secrets Takes place in the 1940s and 1950s Vancouver and 1982 Vancouver Well written and it s sticking with me.

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