The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is one of the more unique novels I have read in a while. It is part historical fiction, part modern-day, and part science fiction that includes climate change complications.
In 1834, the real-life Afong Moy was the first known Chinese woman to immigrate to America. She spent approximately 17 years traveling across the United States performing under the name the “Chinese Lady.” Patrons were curious about her bound feet, clothing, the songs she sang, her make-up, etc. Author Jamie Ford uses Afong as inspiration for this novel about transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Afong’s female descendants apparently have inherited the trauma that Afong endured and each additionally passes some of their own traumas to the next generation.
The primary character is Dorothy Moy, who lives in Seattle, Washington in 2045. Dorothy’s crippling depression causes her to lose her academic position as well as the title of Washington’s poet laureate. When she notices her daughter, Annabelle, exhibiting some of the same behaviors Dorothy did as a child, she undergoes a new radical treatment to help her deal with her inherited trauma. In so doing, Dorothy is able to interact with Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers in 1942; Her own mother, Greta Moy, a tech executive who created a dating app in 2014; Zoe Moy, a student enamored by one of her teachers in 1927 England; Lai King Moy, a girl who barely escapes San Francisco during a plague in 1892; and of course, Afong Moy, the Chinese Lady. Dorothy realizes that each woman has a great love that is somehow denied. They all struggle with acceptance in a foreign land. In dealing with these past events Dorothy hopes to find the peace that has evaded the Moy women for generations.
4-stars. This novel was published on August 2, 2022. Many thanks to NetGalley and the Atria Marketing Team at Simon and Schuster for my advanced reader copy.