Friday, June 14, 2024

The Manicurist's Daughter by Susan Lieu

Title: The Manicurist's Daughter
Series: n/a
Author: Susan Lieu
Format: Celadon; Paperback ARC
More Details: Memoire
Publisher/ Publication Date: Celadon; March 12 2024

Goodreads    Celadon (Book Page)

Synopsis From Celadon
An emotionally raw memoir about the crumbling of the American Dream and a daughter of refugees who searches for answers after her mother dies during plastic surgery.

Susan Lieu has long been searching for answers. About her family’s past and about her own future. Refugees from the Vietnam War, Susan’s family escaped to California in the 1980s after five failed attempts. Upon arrival, Susan’s mother was their savvy, charismatic North Star, setting up two successful nail salons and orchestrating every success—until Susan was eleven. That year, her mother died from a botched tummy tuck. After the funeral, no one was ever allowed to talk about her or what had happened.

For the next twenty years, Susan navigated a series of cascading questions alone—why did the most perfect person in her life want to change her body? Why would no one tell her about her mother’s life in Vietnam? And how did this surgeon, who preyed on Vietnamese immigrants, go on operating after her mother’s death? Sifting through depositions, tracking down the surgeon’s family, and enlisting the help of spirit channelers, Susan uncovers the painful truth of her mother, herself, and the impossible ideal of beauty.

The Manicurist’s Daughter is much more than a memoir about grief, trauma, and body image. It is a story of fierce determination, strength in shared culture, and finding your place in the world.

I tend to like memoirs anyway, but I really liked The Manicurists Daughter by Susan Lieu. From the prologue (which I later realized was an excellent summary), to the writing that drew me in, I found this memoir to be an enjoyable read.

It's essentially Lieu's journey to get answers about her mother. And I want emphasize journey. For every vague lead, there seemed to be even more questions that needed to be addressed. Intertwined with this was also her process of eventually creating performances inspired by her quest. When she finally did get some answers, and things began falling in place, I could see how and where each chapter's contents connected. This not only led up to her performance of 140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother, but also the memoir's end. Which I might add, ends on a confident, understanding, and hopeful note.  There's probably a lot more I could mention but I think the synopsis does a well enough job showing what The Manicurist's Daughter is all about.

As for the writing, I found myself on the typical rollercoaster of emotions. There were times that were heart wrenching and sad, to happy and joyful. Along with the inclusion of Vietnamese, the descriptions were lively and vivid. Overall, it was a rather nice pace. 

Like I said, I found my read enjoyable and I really liked it. I don't have much to say unfortunately. But that's only because, for me, The Manicurist's Daughter is of those memoirs that you just have to start reading, get into it, and see for yourself.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of this book from Celadon for this review. Thanks for reading!

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