Suchen Christine Lim is one of those great writers who I had never heard of simply because she is what the publishing industry considers to be ‘the other’ – a woman and a visible minority from some place else. Sigh. However, the awards and accolades that accompany her name (Fulbright, Iowa Writers’ Program, Arvon Foundation) made me look at her latest book, The River’s Song, a little more closely.
I must admit, in the beginning I found The River’s Song to be a little slow going. Ping’s childhood in Singapore is marred with tragedy and loneliness. But at a certain point, and I can’t say exactly when, the book became un-put-downable for me.
Lim is a great writer and draws compelling pictures in Ping and her unlikely best friend. Their friendship is forbidden and that makes it all the more necessary. Over the course of thirty years and very different lives, their friendship unravels, but comes together at the end.
Who would like this book? We talk about diversity in literature a lot these days, but The River’s Song hits the mark more than many others. Lim is Singaporean. Not Singapore-American or any other hyphenate. She is highly acclaimed in Asia, but is virtually unheard of outside of the Pacific region. This needs to change. The River’s Song captures the changes that Singapore underwent in the 1970s and 80s to become one of the financial capitals of Asia. It also shows how these changes torn apart a traditional way of life.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.