Thursday, February 2, 2012

Audio Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Format: Unabridged Audio
Genre: Fiction
Purchase: Indie Bound

I won this book some time ago from Jenny at Take me Away. I knew it would be a book I would love, having been a fan of novels about Chinese American culture. My change, however, is that I ended up listening to it on audio instead. This year is proving to me The Year of the Audio for me. I am now on my fifth audio book and am really loving it! I am starting to discover the nuances of audio books; what makes them great and what can make them suck. For me, the big screw up factor is if the narrator stinks or is not believable in some way. I tried listening to The Ice Princess by Camille Lackberg, a swedish mystery and the narrator was awful! First it was a male narrator for a female protagonist (duh) and he talked in a really high squeaky voice during her dialogue parts. ugh.

Anyway, I digress.

Grayce Way, the narrator for Girl in Translation was absolutely amazing. Riveting. Talented. Just plain wow. She had the subtle differences within each character down pat. The story is about a Chinese American family, mostly a mother and daughter. The mother knows very little english and the daughter, having arrived from Hong Kong at the age of 8, learns quickly how to speak English and translate for her mother. The narrator really could portray those differences in language and really gave each character such a unique voice.

The story is about Kimberly Chang, a young girl who moves from Hong Kong with her mother to work in her aunt's clothing factory in Brooklyn. Having accrued quite a bit of debt from the trip over and some medical issues of her mother, Kimberly is indebted to her aunt and forced to work at the factory after school. They live in a cold, dank, run down apartment close to the factory arranged for them by the aunt.

Things are grim but the one thing Kimberly has going for her is her school smarts. Exceptionally brilliant and hard working, she knows the way out for her and her mother, lies in her doing well in school, getting into a great college and having a promising career.
What she struggles with through it all is her language barrier, discrimination that prevents her from being taken seriously, and her secret life of working in the factory and
living in filth.

Kimberly is tough, though, you come to find out. Not just smart but strong inside. She fights the bullies, she finds a friend, she continues to work hard and get good grades. Soon enough, the right people notice and give her the opportunity to go to a good private high school.

The whole experience of listening to this book was wonderful. Kimberly's story goes from her awkward childhood to a more confident adult. You experience her struggles with remaining loyal to her family and to the young man she meets at the factory, Matt while also pursing her dreams and living in a much different, affluent white world.

Rating: Recommend
I highly recommend this. I'm sure I would have enjoyed reading the book as well but listening to it brought so much passion, emotion, and life to it all. I felt for Kimberly the whole time and just wanted her to succeed. She was such a lovely character to follow and listen to.
If you are a fan of Chinese American culture or mother/daughter stories, this is for you. It was simply a joy to listen to and I look forward to another novel by Jean Kwok.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I really enjoyed this book and agree that Kim was such a strong main character. I thought the last chapter and epilogue were a bit unnecessary though.

Kate Scott said...

I'll have to add this one to my TBR list. Sounds amazing!

Paula Calvanico said...

I haven't quite fotten inot audio yet. The two books I have listened to on audio proved to be real stinkers, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, there are no words to describe, and one by Mary Higgins Clark that was real bad I can't even remember the title!!

I have read two books by Lisa See, Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls, the later most recent for my book club and we'll be reading Dreams of Joy as well. The culture difference is amazing and interesting to me.


Tomes Devotee

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

i really liked this story and thought the audio was well done.

Jenny said...

I just remembered that I never replied to your e-mail about this! I'm sorry!! I'm so glad you loved this though. I'll have to keep the audio in mind in case I'm ever looking to listen to an old favorite. Did you know the author quoted part of your review on her facebook page?

christa @ mental foodie said...

This has been on my TBR list for a while... I need to read it!

Lisa said...

I had such mixed experiences with audio books that I finally ditched them. I know some of them are starting to use multiple voices so that you don't have a man trying to do the voice of a woman and vice versa so that might make me rethink them. Glad this one was well done!