The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford
I want to thank Simon&Schuster Canada for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I took a course during my degree called “Women’s Memoirs”. During that semester, we read six or so memoirs, all written by women who had immigrated to North America from other countries. If you’re interested in the actual book list, message me on Instagram. Reading The Many Daughters of Afong Moy brought me back to the conversations that we had in those classes. We talked about the difficulty of moving to a new country, the struggle of these women to find their purpose in a new and changing environment, and in a few cases, the generational struggle of their daughters.
Afong Moy seems to be a natural evolution of those topics, diving deeply into the idea of generational or inherited trauma through a fictional lens. Throughout the novel, we see the perspectives of five women descended from Afong Moy, the last of which is Dorothy. Dorothy believes that the trauma from each of those women has built upon the last and now haunts her. In an effort to rid herself of the trauma of her ancestors and refuse to pass down this burden to her own daughter, Dorothy enters an experimental trial to explore and mitigate inherited trauma through reliving the memories of her ancestors.
I was worried about the number of perspectives when I first started reading. I wasn’t sure if each of the women and their respective worlds would have enough time to show themselves while also introducing me to the necessary traumatic events. Let me tell you: The Many Daughters of Afong Moy did all that and more.
Each woman from Afong to Dorothy was unique and complex, all having their own lives, troubles, worries, and situations. Jamie Ford balanced the perspectives perfectly, giving me a viewscreen into every detailed life without allowing one to dominate the others. Yes, Dorothy is technically the main character I would say, but her chapters didn’t overpower any of the others.
The most impressive part of this novel is Ford’s ability to weave recurring details through the different time periods. Trauma isn’t the only thing that all the Moy women inherit from one another. A stranger has been finding Dorothy in each of her ancestors’ lives as well, adding love to her genetic memories. Poetry is another constant, whether in the form of actual poetry or in song. I commend Ford on his ability to weave all of these details together in a novel that really isn’t very long.
All I’m going to say is, read this book. It’s thought-provoking and lingering, urging the reader to explore their own history—not just the memories of the single person, but the genetic history that belongs to each of us courtesy of our ancestors. What else could you have inherited from your mother, father, or great-great-grandparent, besides the family nose or ears? I certainly have some theories about what I could have unknowingly inherited. Not only is The Many Daughters of Afong Moy an extremely fascinating read, but it has the potential to change how we all think about our families, both in the past and in the future. An incredible read that I will be excited to reread with an even more critical eye in the future. Perhaps by then, I’ll have a child of my own and my perspective will be even more connected and understanding.
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