Reviewed by Christy
Estella and Gwendolyn are part of a very large and very rich Chinese-Indonesian family. The two sisters have always been close and each other’s best friends. So when Gwendolyn finds herself in a coma, unable to regain consciousness but still fully aware, she is devastated and confused. She is the only survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their entire family (as well as a significant number of family friends) at their grandfather’s birthday celebration.
The entire novel consists of Gwendolyn rifling through her memories and trying to figure out what could push Estella so far over the edge. Tsao writes a compelling narrative. Gwendolyn jumps around in time quite a bit, and it can be disorienting. But I think it works well with a mystery as she slowly reveals more information. It also seemed realistic given her circumstances. The story of the family’s climb to power and wealth is rich and layered, as are Estella and Gwendolyn as characters. Tsao’s writing is mostly straight forward with poetic dashes thrown in here and there. I enjoyed my time reading her book – for the most part.
The ending, however, is where it almost all collapses for me. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone but it includes a trope that is, in my opinion, very overdone and one of my least favorites. It’s particularly disappointing because I do think the story is strong and with a few tweaks of the ending, it would be a solid 4 or 5 star read. There didn’t need to be a gimmick. As it is, it was only an unexceptional 3 star read for me. If you’re a reader who doesn’t let an unsatisfying ending negatively influence your reading experience, you might like it more.
** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **