Title: Following the Wrong God Home
Author: Catherine Lim
Genre: General Fiction
Yin Ling – poor, beautiful, an outstanding student and a poet – is to marry Vincent Chee, a rich PhD student from a very traditional, upper-class family. She will become a dutiful wife, not the existence of her dreams, but the Chees’ money and influence is essential, for her mother has cancer and they cannot abandon a faithful old servant, Ah Heng Cheh. However, the mapping out of Ling’s future doesn’t proceed smoothly. Almost against her will, and through her poetry, she meets outspoken American professor, Ben Gallagher, who threatens to overturn everything. Ling must make her choice: east or west, head or heart. The birth of a son makes her moral predicament even more agonizing.
Following the Wrong God Home is not an edge of the seat and flick the pages feverishly to the end sort of story, it is more of a gentle pull you in and so immerse you in the events that you don’t realise that you’ve been hooked kind of story. And that is what happened to me. I first ‘met’ Catherine Lim last year when I read The Song of Silver Frond which was set in Singapore in the 1940s. FOLLOWING THE WRONG GOD HOME is set in the 1980s and looks at the differences between rich and poor, modern and traditional, east and west and how the different characters are influenced by these things. Yin Ling is a bit of a fool for taking the easy way out and getting married, and when she finally had the guts to follow her own heart it was so much more traumatic for all concerned – including herself. On a side note I didn’t like Yin Ling’s poetry – just didn’t get it which might make me a fool too for admitting that. Mostly the characters were very good for what they represented, although I just didn’t feel drawn to Ben as a character – to me the whole romance didn’t feel real. Yin Ling’s relationship with her husband Vince had more believability and came alive on the pages much better. Vince was the link into the Singaporean politics of the day and Catherine Lim was able to subtly have politics influence the outcome of the story at many different levels. The ending was a complete shock, came right out of left field – but now I have had time to reflect it was actually the perfect ending. Overall FOLLOWING THE WRONG GOD HOME is a really good story, with great descriptions and insights into life in Singapore which is as the book was a blend between modern and traditional, rich and poor, influences of both the east and the west.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.
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