My Old Faithful
by Yang Huang
My rating: 5 stars
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (February 12, 2018)
Genre: Family Saga | Short Stories
Paperback: 184 pages
Winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction
Evoking both the drama of familial intimacy and the ups and downs of the everyday, My Old Faithful introduces readers to a close-knit Chinese family. These ten interconnected short stories, which take place in China and the United States over a thirty-year period, merge to paint a nuanced portrait of family life, full of pain, surprises, and subtle acts of courage. Richly textured narratives from the mother, the father, the son, and the daughters play out against the backdrop of China's social and economic change.
With quiet humor and sharp insight into the ordinary, Yang Huang writes of a father who spanks his son out of love, a brother who betrays his sister, and a young woman who dares bring a brown man home to her conservative parents. She writes of an aging wife and the kindness she shows a young prostitute caught soliciting her husband; of a woman returning to China after many years to find her country changed in ways both expected and startling. This collection, by a writer who grew up in Jiangsu province and participated in the 1989 student uprisings, is remarkable in its sense of place and fidelity to lived human experience.
My Old Faithful by Yang Huang
In a country steeped in an ancient cultural history and personal honor, one Chinese family’s saga is told over a thirty year period in short snippets that highlight each member through the joys and sorrows of time marching on. As China faces social and economic changes, this family will represent a slice of those changes as each member grows and the children leave to make their own way in the world.
MY OLD FAITHFUL by Yang Huang is a rich tapestry that unfolds to depict the trials of one close-knit family caught up in unprecedented social change from the traditional family unit to a more modernized version introduced by the three children. This family is not merely representative of a single country, it is representative of the world’s family units as they each face the day to day interactions and upheavals in a world that can be unsettling.
Yang Huang’s words are almost lyrical as they talk of a father’s disappointments in his only son, a mother’s hopes for her daughters and her buffering between father and son. Each child will describe their position in their family as they see them, parroting the words of their parents. For me, that is proof that no matter the culture, the family unit is the bedrock and the springboard for each generation to reach for “more,” unafraid to raise their collective voices to be heard.
Certainly not a rapid-fire read, this is one to savor for its rich flavor and heartfelt message that is timeless and enlightening. This is a story about families, love, coming of age and letting go of the the unnecessary pieces of the past while weaving the good that remains into the future.
I received a complimentary copy from Yang Huang!