My first memory of author Jamie Ford was more than a decade ago at the Jefferson, Texas, convention center. Holding a full-sized umbrella instead of those puny folded figures, he smiles as usual, looking a little overwhelmed by a group of lively readers in headdresses.
Tonight, he released his debut novel, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which kicked off the road to an international bestseller. This umbrella was part of a last minute outfit for the Pulp Queen Girlfriends Weekend show, and he was introduced to me and others by Kathy L. Murphy, founder of the Pulp Queen Book Club, who was the first to support him One of the first novels.
I was standing in the back of the room when Keithville resident Suzanne Creech came up to me and raved about his book. She was so excited I immediately moved it to my reading list.
“I couldn’t put it down,” she said in an interview last week. “I highly recommend it to a lot of people.” Ford became a favorite with readers throughout Northern Louisiana and beyond. He is a great writer and thoughtful man with a deep study of family, history, and Chinese American culture.
I read anything he writes now – and bought a hardcover copy of his new novel “The Many Daughters of Alfon Moy” as soon as it came out. My reading socks were blown away by this book, one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve read in a long time.
I call it historical fiction with a hint of mystery or speculation in it. It’s an epic but in some ways reads like a collection of short stories – but changes that observation by turning into a suspenseful tale in which you look for clues about how intergenerational characters are connected .
As you probably already know, this is literary fiction and definitely not a delightful escapism.
the premise of the novel
Through the experiences of former Washington state poet laureate Dorothy Moy, Ford explores the lives of seven women from 1836 to 2086, believing the past haunts her and worrying that her young daughter is doomed to suffer The same depression that has marked her throughout her life. So she seeks out radical help — experimental treatments designed to lessen the trauma of past generations, treatments that connect her to women and their loves from other periods .
It’s a book full of great losses, much of it rooted in real history — but it offers hope. A key theme: By making peace with the past, future generations can be freed from family tragedy.
You don’t pick up a Ford novel and think it was written by another author. To me, his work gives a sense of bravery, as if he took risks because he had to tell a specific story. Since The Hotel on the Corner of the Bitter and Sweet, the tone of his work has become darker, but his novels are still full of tenderness, full of affectionate characters.
“Afong Moy’s Many Daughters” is not only a bit heartbreaking, it’s a story that you can’t — don’t — shake when you put it down. It’s interspersed with poetry and poetic observations, such as the scent of flowers or how some notes in a song evoke memories, paying homage to Ford’s own love of poetry.
learn from fiction
While reading this book, I was reminded of what a speaker at the Shreveport Writing Conference said a few years ago: Readers want to learn from what they read. A good novel teaches us something.
Wow, did I learn this from “The Many Daughters of Alphonse Moi”?
This is a class on the topic of “Epigenetics”, the study of trauma transmitted through DNA, a concept that I barely knew. While working with the Journalism Project and researching a nonfiction book about adoptees stolen and brokered as orphans, I learned about the health effects of trauma, and I was fascinated by thinking about how the trauma of our ancestors affects our identities.
Additionally, I learned that Ford’s re-imagined real character, Avon Moy, in fictional form is historically considered the first Chinese woman to come to the United States. The novel also deals with war, plague, and typhoons—every part of its tragic realism.
selected a series
Book lovers will notice that “The Many Daughters of Alfon Moy” can be found everywhere. It’s a New York Times bestseller, a recent top independent bookstore pick, the “Reading with Jenna” book club on “The Today Show”, and a TV show by Jenna Bush.
More about the author
Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Zhong Min, who immigrated to San Francisco from Huiping, China, in 1865 and adopted the Western surname Ford, “thus confusing generations.” He grew up in Seattle and now lives in Montana. He also wrote “A Song of Anna May” and “Love and Other Consolations.” If road trips are your thing, he’s at the Texas Book Festival in Austin on November 5th. For more information, visit www.JamieFord.com.Columnist Judy Christie is the author of 18 fiction and non-fiction books and is writing a new novel about the writer. She co-authored “Before and After: The Incredible True Story of an Orphan Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Association” with New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate, now in paperback. For more information about Christie, visit www.judychristie.com or follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JudyChristieAuthor.