Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.
“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.
America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.
The cover of this book is absolutely stunning, but the actual story didn’t have the same impact that the cover did. While I found the picture of life for a Chinese American girl in 1950s San Francisco fascinating, the story seemed to move at a snail like pace.
I enjoyed Lily and Kath’s relationship, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found the Telegraph Club, it’s performers and patrons more interesting. Thinking back on it, I can’t really say who Kath was, she was very generic and aside from liking planes, was almost a dreamgirl-lesbian character designed to fit Lily perfectly.
The ending of the book, and Lily’s life after a major event, should have been a good chunk of the book I felt, not relegated to a discussion in the epilogue. The story doesn’t really get interesting until the last 30%, so if the first 70% was cut down to expand the more interesting events, this could have been a 4 or 5 star read.