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The White Amah by Ann Massey


I'm a big fan of Asian fiction, so naturally I had high expectations when I bought "The White Amah." My expectations were far exceeded! The book contains the stories of several characters, over a long stretch of time, that are interlinked. Crystal is teenager who drops out of school to join a group of female performers, the White Diamonds, who are touring South-East Asia. She becomes a star, and is alienated by the other females in the group. When the group runs into trouble, Crystal frees herself from her past and clings to a performer in an upcoming rock band. The two become a couple, and Crystal launches the band into wild success as the lead singer. A series of complicated circumstances lead to Crystal becoming pregnant and giving up her baby, Mei-Li. The next section of the book talks about the life of Rubiah, who is a helper of a wealthy family that adopts Mei-Li. Rubiah is intent on taking the place of the husband’s wife, and repeatedly sleeps with the husband. Disaster strikes when her sin is discovered, and she is left with the baby. Rubiah is too selfish to keep the child, and thinks only of ways to have fun and meet wealthy men who can take care of her. She leaves the child with her parents, and Mei-Li’s story starts when she is about to marry and older man that she doesn’t love.
Every single story is unique and filled with culture and traditions that are often underplayed in Western culture. The characters are multi-dimensional, and the reader is left with a sense that they are more than just typical stock characters used to help execute the plot. The author incites emotions from the reader regarding the characters’ lives and actions, whether those emotions are disgust, sympathy, anger, or something else. The transitions from character to character are intriguing, inciting in the reader an eagerness to see what the next turn of events will be and what will happen to each of the characters. I appreciated how all of the characters were somehow connected to each other. It gives the reader a sense of importance in finishing the story, because the book involves so many different characters’ lives. While there is a plethora of action in the book, including rape, love, sex, lust, cheating, and violence in the book, the events are believable and realistic. The story unfolds easily and seamlessly, and the author has very readable writing style.

If you enjoy Asian fiction, you'll love "The White Amah."

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