Top positive review
65 people found this helpful
Not to be missed
on June 28, 2000
"Everything about our birth is known," writes Eng in Darin Strauss' novel, and in a way, Eng is right. We know about the lives of the famous Siamese Twins, that they were born to a poor fisher family along the Mekong River, that they spent time at the King of Siam's court before they were brought to New York by a cunning entrepreneur, that they had a brush with P.T. Barnum, that they married sisters, fathered lots of children and became slave-owning farmers in rural North Carolina. But what we can never know is how it was to be connected to each other by a five-inch ligature which contained a shared stomach. It is that imagining that makes Chang and Eng such a fine and poignant book.
The twins had completely different personalities. Eng, the book's narrator, was the more reserved of the two. He spoke accent less English and read constantly, frequently annoyed by Chang's immigrant-English and cheerful banter with the crowds. Chang may never have learned how to use the verb to be, but his slyly clever jokes and warm smile made him the more popular of the twins, and seemingly the most contented with his lot. Eng always yearned for separation but Chang did not, even when the two were in continual conflict. Chang drank, and Eng was a spokesman for the Temperance Union. Because Chang dared make his feelings known to a small-town Southern girl, the twins married-something that neither had ever dreamed of-and might have been happy if Eng had not fallen in love with Chang's wife. And because Chang died, Eng had to follow him too soon.
There is enough historical detail in Chang and Eng to set the novel in the proper period: Strauss is not out to write a piece overly heavy in historical detail. It is the characterizations that draw the reader into Chang and Eng's circle and make this book so memorable. Don't miss this book. I wish Darin Strauss every success, and look forward to what he writes next.