Thursday, 2 June 2016

MPOV: FireWife

The Chinese creation myth includes the battle between fire and water. As the battle continues, it shapes the lives and fates of every person. Some will know fire love, the wild passion that passes quickly. For others, there is water love, like the great rivers that defy place and time.

Tinling Choong draws on this powerful legend in FireWife to tell the fictional story of a fledgling photographer, Nin, who leaves her corporate job in California to photograph women throughout the world. Her journey turns into a search for the truth about women: the women of fire and the women of water. At each stopping place, she uncovers the tale of a woman who has been marginalized by her sexuality. In Taipei, she meets Zimi, who leases her forehead as advertising space and wants to donate her eggs to an infertile friend; in Bangkok, she photographs Ut, a fourteen-year-old girl forced into prostitution; in Tokyo, Nin’s subject bares her body so that sushi may be served upon her daily to groups of salivating men. Each of their lives echoes a stage in Nin’s own journey of discovering her raw sexual self, her true fire self.

Original, courageous, and intensely moving, FireWife is a poetic exploration of contemporary Asian women unknowingly connected over time. It introduces an astonishing new literary voice.

The above taken from Goodreads.

I had my qualms on this book. I bought it then due to the captivating title and strange cover. I also liked how the chapters were arranged and titled plus the handy hardcover size with deckled edges! However, I've shelved it in my 'to be read' pile many a times as it wasn't captivating enough for me to read it. Finally taking the plunge to read it after so many years and it turned out differently, not what I've thought it would be. Still debating if I should keep the book as the book itself sparks joy but not the story.

It's a book about self-discovery for Nin through the lives of 6 women and an imaginary man she had met in her photography quest, namely FireWife. She had captured the essence of these individuals and retold their lives through her photos. Through them, she also rediscovered her true self.

This is one of those books that either you like it or hate it. It started well as I find her prose refreshing at first. Tinling writes very well and her prose is authentic though a little long winded at times. Gradually, I find her fillers to be a little overboard... there were numerous repetitive sentences, some extensively cheong hei plus dwindling rosy. It made me skip a few lines and continue, skip a few paragraphs and continue, at times a few pages... just flipped through it. In the end, I was confused and couldn't really grasp what I've read.

In summary, it's a book about feminism, sexuality, bullying, hardship, inner desire and freedom. Though I do not agree with the ending, where Nin cheated on her husband during her long holiday, releasing her past demon is something all of us can relate to. We need to let go of the past and move forward to the future in order to expand our horizons. It is never too late to discover our true selves... but in this scenario, with Nin cheating her husband, to discover her true inner goddess, her inner fire so to speak is a little far-fetched for me. I guess I'm a little old fashion so the plot is not favourable here.

With the suffering and sad lives of the 6 women, here you have Nin who has everything (albeit a sad and remorse past)... a high-flyer with a loving husband but wanting to explore the fire in her instead. I guess Tinling wanted to prove the point that every single human being is never satisfied with what they have even though they have everything. Or I could be wrong and misunderstood here...

Goodreads rating: 3.29
My rating: 2.5/5

Author: Tinling Choong
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Asian literature, fiction

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