The Power of Passion
by Dennis W.C. Wong
Authors' Tranquility Press

"If only Flora knew that her response would set a chain reaction of events in her relationship with her soon to be mother-in-law."

This drama explores the lengthy trajectory of a family conflict when Mrs. Kate, the matriarch of a Chinese American clan, refuses to accept her son's Hawaiian fiancée. Born in an era when Chinese parents arranged marriages for their children, her twin sister, Janet, was fortunate to find love in a good match. But Janet's beloved husband is actually the man with whom the young Kate was in love. Mrs. Kate never bonded with her patient, genial husband, Matt, and she projects her pain onto her son Eddie by insisting that he can't marry his soulmate, Flora. Flora feels crushed by her future mother-in-law's rejection and her insistence that Hawaiians are evil, even as Mrs. Kate accepts Eddie's sister Anne's fiancée: "If only she knew how out of touch with modern times the woman sitting next to her was. If only she knew, she would have made herself Chinese."

At times the narrative seems overly detached and distant from the passion that drives the characters to seek love, redemption, and familial harmony amidst the routines of their ordinary daily lives, despite the mistakes that Mrs. Kate's stubborn adherence to tradition creates. But then the masks suddenly drop, and readers experience the shock of the matriarch's anger: "The reaction from Mrs. Kate was instantaneous. It was without any form of pretense whatsoever. Her once glowing, smiling face became a visage of a contorted frown. She dropped her spoon on the table instantly while casting a bitter, sad glance at her son seated opposite her."

This family would have fractured entirely if it weren't for Eddie's devotion to his parents that is apparent in his patience and many acts of traditional filial piety. The matter-of-fact novella wends its way through the dark and light spaces of the characters' hearts during months and years of intermittent tension. At times the characters seem almost too polite to one another despite the enormity of their frustrations because the conflict definitely stings at a deep level and could be almost explosive in real life. Despite the pleas of all family members who prod Mrs. Kate to be more reasonable and modern, she absolutely refuses to attend Eddie and Flora's wedding. It's months before Mrs. Kate and Flora finally connect tangentially because of the birth of her and Eddie's first child. And yet, Mrs. Kate still refuses to accept Flora as Eddie's wife because of her ancestry, even as she finds joy in her first grandchild.

As the years pass, a selfless young neighbor named Rose unknowingly sparks a light in Mrs. Kate. On her way to visit Mrs. Kate one day, Rose is hurt in a freak accident that shocks Mrs. Kate to her core and lands both the young girl and the elderly woman in hospital beds. But the situation opens Mrs. Kate's heart and mind to the natural beauty that has resided within her soul all along, proving it's never too late to find one's spiritual truth. Wong reveals a side of his cultural ancestry in this story that he perhaps has experienced or witnessed. The author's steady revelations and movement through the ups and downs of this Asian American cultural tale will keep readers turning pages.

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