The End of East
Sammy Chan was sure she’d escaped her family obligations when she fled Vancouver six years ago, but with her sister’s upcoming marriage, her turn has come to care for their aging mother. Abandoned by all four of her older sisters, jobless and stuck in a city she resents, Sammy finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history and delving into stories that began in 1913, when her grandfather, Seid Quan, then eighteen years old, first stepped on Canadian soil.
The End of East weaves in and out of the past and the present, picking up the threads of the Chan family’s stories: Seid Quan, whose loneliness in this foreign country is profound even as he joins the Chinatown community; Shew Lin, whose hopes for her family are threatened by her own misguided actions; Pon Man, who struggles with obligation and desire; and Siu Sang, who tries to be the caregiver everyone expects, even as she feels herself unravelling. And in the background, five little girls grow up under the weight of family expectations. As the past unfolds around her, Sammy finds herself embroiled in a volatile mixture of a dangerous love affair, a difficult and duty-filled relationship with her mother, and the still-fresh memories of her father’s long illness.
An exquisite and evocative debut from one of Canada’s bright new literary stars, The End of East sets family conflicts against the backdrop of Vancouver’s Chinatown – a city within a city where dreams are shattered as quickly as they’re built, and where history repeats itself through the generations.
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
At first, what frightened her about this place was the drizzle – the omnipresent grey of morning, afternoon, nighttime too. She was afraid that she would slowly be leached of colour and that, one day, while she was combing her hair in the mirror, she would see that her reflection was as grey as...
1. When Samantha returns home, one of the first things she stumbles upon is her grandfather’s Head Tax
certificate, paid in 1913.
• How did the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act affect the inner, emotional lives of the Chan family?
• What effect, if any, have these immigration policies had on...
Delivered in lyrical language radiating with apt metaphors, the story alternates between Sammy Chan’s modern-day life and her family’s past… An enrapturing exploration of identity that proves that family is unshakeable.
- Kirkus Reveiw
“Impressive, both in terms of its accomplished prose and its ambitious three-generational scope. . . . Lee’s talent is undeniable.”
“Poetic. . . . Jen Sookfong Lee is aware of the dark side of mythmaking, its distorting and even parasitic price. It’s one of many things that make her a novelist to watch.”
“An accomplished and complex story about the intricate set of issues that surround Chinese-Canadian identity,
a story that will ring true for Canadians of other backgrounds.”
–The Gazette (Montreal)
“Richly layered . . . there is much to admire. . . . Jen Lee shows off a confident style, investing The End of East with rich imagery and well-wrought characters and deftly handling the complexities of the various storylines.”
––The Vancouver Sun
"In this powerful first novel Jen Sookfong Lee moves fluently through the life of an immigrant family, speaking what remains unspoken between the generations. Observant and humane, The End of East shows us that within a family nothing ever really ends."
–Thomas Wharton, author of Salamander
"From China to Vancouver, past to present, The End of East beautifully guides us through the heart of the Chan family and the Chinese immigrant experience – charting dreams, regrets, hopes and triumphs along the way. Jen Sookfong Lee’s storytelling instincts are honest, unflinching and fearless."
–Ami McKay, author of The Birth House
"I am awestruck by Jen Sookfong Lee’s ambition in this, her first novel, an ambition that is fulfilled with power and grace. Whatever assumptions I had about Vancouver’s Chinatown have been supplanted by Lee’s vision of a world where family obligation is passed on through the generations, where personal dreams are sacrificed for family goals as a matter of course. It’s a world that is different, and yet so terribly similar to my own. The End of East is a wise, challenging and heartbreaking novel. And Jen Sookfong Lee is a novelist with the eye and ear and soul of a poet."
–Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees