Minda’s drunk review of Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler. Thank you to Berkley Books and Netgalley for an advance readers copy! Now available.
What I Drank: Lots o’red wine–Spanish Garnacha that I got from a wine club box. I haven’t done one of these in awhile. Husband is out so I’m just sitting here watching Encanto on repeat (but it’s NOT about Bruno). I was middle on this movie, but now I’m on board.
In the wake of a tragedy and fueled by guilt from a secret she’s kept for years, a woman discovers how delicate the thread that binds family is in this powerful novel by Lyn Liao Butler.
Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed unexpectedly in an accident. A shell-shocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. With no other family around, Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she hasn’t seen since the child was an infant.
Overwhelmed by her life suddenly being upended, Tam must also decide if she will complete the adoption on her own and bring home the son waiting for her in a Chinese orphanage. But when a long-concealed secret comes to light just as she and Angela start to bond, their fragile family is threatened. As Tam begins to unravel the events of Tony and Mia’s past in China, she discovers the true meaning of love and the threads that bind her to the family she is fated to have.
My Summary: When her husband and his estranged cousin die in an accident together, Tam is left confused and distraught. How long have they been reconciled? How will she go on without him and her former best friend? At the same time, Tam finds out she (and her now deceased husband) finally were approved to adopt the orphaned child in China they’ve been waiting for AND that the estranged cousin’s child, Angela, has also been left in her care. As she learns how to be a mother, Taiwanese-American Tam is forced to discover what her identity means to her and her family and the secrets of her Chinese husband’s family’s past as well. The story was told from the perspectives of Tam, in the present, and Mia, in the past.
My Spoiler-free Thoughts: This was a touching tale of family and identity, completed with a good mystery to unravel. The mystery and rediscovery of lost identity were my personal favorite aspects of this one. While I really didn’t love the two narrators, there was a lot to like here. Highly recommend reading an own-voices
What I Liked: The descriptions of Taiwanese and Chinese family dynamics and culture was great, IMO. There was a lot I didn’t know and a lot I found really interested. For example, the title–brought up a few times in the book–is about the red thread in Chinese mythology–an invisible red cord that binds two people who were detsined to be together. It was small things like that that really made the story. Everything and everyone were tied together in little ways.
What I Disliked: Both the main characters were, let’s say, not my favorite. Sure, Mia was a tragic character, but that should not dismiss some of the things she did. I really did not like her, even when she was telling her side of the story and other character’s were defending her. For Tam’s part, I just didn’t relate to her, which is totally fine and many other people might relate to her 100%. But for me, she was too passive and didn’t own her decisions. Also, some pretty big deal topics and actions (TW: rape, forced prostitution, etc) were brushed under the rug pretty quickly.
What I Loved: The supporting cast! Seriously, almost everyone other than Tam and Mia are awesome. For one, her mother owns her own story and, while she can be sort of a pill, I totally get it. Her older brother is great, too. They are so supportive of Tam–even when she’s being less than grateful. Tam’s support group, Bee, Abby, and Adam, also deserve so so much credit. Angela, her soon-to-be-in-my-narrative adopted daughter is a little precocious, but it was something that I personally appreciated and she was so sweet. And Charlie is just adorbs. This supporting cast blanket does not include the husband, Tony. Unfortuantely he’s more a fridge than anything.
TL;DR: Story of identity, family, and motherhood from a Taiwanese-American perspective with a mysterious past to boot. A lot to like here, if you can get past or relate to the main characters.
Drink Pairing: Gosh, this one is tough. Let’s go oakey chardonnay–you’ll probably love it or you don’t.
Rating: 4/5 shots