Descent Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I spotted remarkably few typos (7 of them). The writing style was clear, literate and refreshing. I recommend the book for its insight into contemporary Chinese culture and the downstream effects of the Cultural Revolution. 4.3 stars.
JJ Toner. From The Kindle Book Review
In 2003 Dr. Wu Rong, a Shanghai native in his early thirties working halfway around the world as a pathologist in Augusta, Maine, clearly prefers having sex with men. But he can't refuse to marry a woman and have a traditional family. If he does, he'll utterly destroy the hopes and dreams of his mother.
Although Descent includes its share of other colorful and unique characters, it's all about Dr. Wu and the woman known only as "Rongrong's mother."
Western readers in 2013 might be tempted to dismiss Wu Rong and his wildly controlling mother as throwbacks to an era of homophobia we've come to despise. This would be a mistake. Both Wu and his mother, trapped in the plot of their story against their will, are deeply sympathetic.
The Maoists destroyed the fortune of the Wu family. As she lay dying, Wu Rong's paternal grandmother arranged the marriage of his father (who seems to have been as "abnormal" in his desires as his son) to the impoverished woman from a farming village who'd become her nurse.
Rongrong's mother, speaking of her son, says this to his father: "Everything we do is for him." Wu Rong tells us: "Only through me could she look to the future."
And the writing is consistently lovely. Wu describes the Taiwanese man who seduced him when he was 31 and still a virgin: "He resembled a protagonist in a children's adventure series, a boy wandering through a marginal land, searching, digging, examining, and contemplating."
Wu tells us: "I had always wanted to feel normal. I had always looked normal. Proper, polite, hard-working, and friendly." He wanted something else, too: "To be left alone in this world.Read more ›
There is also the tension between the boy's own desire to be himself and the mold his mother is cleverly stuffing him into. She, by the way, may be one of the best representations of the Chinese mother in literature, not the perky "Tiger Mom," but the relentless, blinkered (and yet still sympathetic) carrier of tradition. Packed in here is the tension between the young man's emerging sexual orientation and the iron expectation that, once educated and successful, he will find a wife and start a family.
Then there's the tug between America and China. One might suppose that by escaping to Maine and finding a quiet niche as small town pathologist, he could escape, maybe in some way become like the eagle he admires from his apartment window. He might even find room to express his sexuality. But although he does have one intense encounter, in the end, after a horrific incident during a visit home, his mother pulls him back into the cage. But read the book; you'll see how.
Wu's relationship with his mother is contrasted with his relationship with his father. Throughout Wu's childhood he seems sad, distant, almost not really there. Wu knows of his father's history through his aunts - a history that involves the Communist and Cultural Revolution - but he struggles to really know his father. He knows stories, like how his father met his mother, but he doesn't know the person.
I found Wu's character incredibly sympathetic in that he really tries to be honest with himself and others, and he also constantly tries to put other people's needs ahead of his. Unfortunately, he finds that making one person happy often means hurting someone else - or himself.
I was impressed by the complexity of this book. Zhu layers history, culture, class and societal norms across continents and decades. In a relatively short book he shows how truly difficult it can be to meet the expectations of our families and cultures, as well as the expectations we place on ourselves. On the issue of acceptance of homosexuality, this is not just an "issue book" - Zhu really makes you think about how difficult it is for Wu to accept his own sexuality. It's not just an issue of rights or culture.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a sad story, it was well written and the main character I liked very much, but so sad. I would read more stories by this author.Published 21 months ago by Lannie
I thought this was a very sad but well written and true to life work. This work pertains to the Chinese but it is not unique to them. Read morePublished 22 months ago by A. L. PUTMAN