The end of summer may be near, but there’s still time to squeeze in Jean Kwok’s Mambo In Chinatown, a page-turner that will appeal to romantics and optimists. The novel’s strength is its quick pace, which ushers the reader through a series of at-times improbable plot twists. This is a book best enjoyed on a lazy afternoon, perhaps on a beach, or at least on a couch with an open window nearby.
Our protagonist is 22-year-old Charlie Wong. She is not the ugliest of ducklings, but she is certainly the least capable. When we meet her, Charlie works as a dishwasher in the Chinatown restaurant where her father is the top noodle maker. She is unable to hold more challenging jobs, and so focuses her energy on supporting Lisa, her intelligent 11-year-old sister.