A Jackie Lau book always makes me smile and sigh in pleasure. Lau’s writing, pacing, and characters are so lively and warm and fun that her books are unputdownable. They also leave you hungry for all the foods mentioned — wouldn’t it be fun to go food adventuring with Lau, you wonder.
Written for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, this first book of the Holidays with the Wongs series is a tender romp.
The hero of the story, Nick Wong born in Mosquito Bay but lately of Toronto, is honest, successful, and a down-to-earth man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. His one-line ripostes are the highlight of this novella. You also get the sense that he is a good son and grandson, respectful of his elders even when they exasperate him with their demands and general older-generation things they just love to harp on. He left home after high school because he liked to be his own man, the one in charge of his future.
Lily Tseng is convinced she is stodgy and boring — she was even told his by her former boyfriend. She is good at her job, likes her independence and loves living in the big city, but has yet to imbibe the vibe of sophisticated city living.
As you can imagine, their families do meddle in their lives, oh, with the best of intentions naturally, but Nick and Lily weather them with a sense of humor and grace and chagrin. The families are convinced that disaster is nigh since both of them are in their thirties with nary a spouse or children in sight, so they set up them up with blind dates for Thanksgiving. The world is indeed small, because as it turns out, unknown to Nick and Lily, their parents know each other.
While these shenanigans are being hatched, Lily has decided that she is determined to suck the marrow out of life. With that in mind, the first order of business is a one-night-stand. As luck would have it, on the first night she’s on town, she meets this gorgeous man, who, by his own statement, is an expert on one-night stands.
What follows then is simply magical for both of them. Nick’s generosity with his expertise in ensuring that Lily has a lovely experience is rewarded by her generosity of emotions. They are good to each other, considerate of each other’s feelings and exploring each other’s thoughts and lives within the self-imposed bounds of one-night-stands. But as needs must, come morning they part never to see each other again…
…only to find that she is his brother’s date for Thanksgiving dinner. Ooh!
I enjoyed a look into the first- and second-generation immigrant families whom Lau showcases in her story. She strikes just the right note with the complexity of their heritages and cultural and social attitudes. In Nick and Lily, Lau has created giving, thoughtful individuals, who are open to stepping outside their comfort zones into new experiences that they never imagined before they would like to try. The magic of the holidays is that they’re gifted for their daring with a forever love, one that encompasses their cosmopolitan city life and also the small-town Canadian life.
Lau is a prolific writer, and I am always looking forward to her next story.