Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Inside the car, it smells like hibiscus. ~ Opening of Diamond Head by Cecily Wong



Diamond Head by Cecily Wong
Harper, 2015
Fiction; 320 pgs

I hesitate to say too much about this novel, about the characters and their experiences, as anything might be considered a spoiler. I will say that at the helm of the family is Frank Leong, a wealthy business man who has made his fortune in the shipping industry. When tensions become high in his home country of China, he moves his family to the island of Oahu. Life seems idyllic for the family as they settle in their new home. Only, tragedy strikes in the form of a murder. And with it, secrets that come out are quickly hidden again as the surviving family members struggle to rebuild their lives. Years later, with another death in the family, the youngest Leong, eighteen year old Theresa, finds out the truths long kept secret and how the mistakes of the past, those of her ancestors, touch her own life.

As I closed Cecily Wong's Diamond Head, I sat a moment, reflecting, tears running down my cheeks. I was not ready for it to end. I found this novel to be a quiet one mostly, an inside look at a family's successes and failures and how decisions made by one person come to impact others, sometimes across generations. It's a theme I find myself drawn to again and again in novels.

Cecily Wong does not write in a linear fashion; her story is told in flashbacks, not always in order, spanning the early 1900's up until 1964. It works well for this novel; Wong weaves the various narratives and time periods together expertly. Diamond Head has a strong sense of place. I could feel the magic of Hawaii when Lin Leong, Frank's wife, first sets foot on the island on Oahu. Cecily Wong brings both China and Hawaii alive with her words as she shares the story of the Leongs with her reader.

The story of the red string of fate binding together true love partners runs throughout the novel in one form or another. And in that way, Diamond Head is very much a love story, albeit a tragic one more often than not. It is also the story of family and of the choices we make--or don't make--as well as of redemption. The talk of fate weighs heavily on the pages; it weighs on the characters, like the knots that form in the red string when they stray from their fate, how it can hurt and punish. Each of the characters in the novel has their own story to tell, and, through the women, we get to know not only the stories but how they are interconnected. I liked that the reader gets the opportunity to know each of the women from their own perspectives as well as from each others.

At various points in the novel I wished for different fates for the characters, that they could have made different choices, seeing the direction their choices were likely to lead. And yet, had they made different choices, would their circumstances been better? Many times, the characters thought so--which in an of itself is sad. There were a lot of regrets, guilt and sacrifice. Within that though, there was also joy and hope.

I ached for Lin, the abuse she suffered as a child to the betrayal she suffered later in her life. My heart broke for Hong who lost the love of her life. I suffered with her during her long journey to her husband's brother's house with her shoes falling apart, hunger eating away at her, admiring her strength all the while. I wrung my hands and cried with Amy as she had to make the hardest decision of her life: a choice between love and family. And I felt Theresa's anguish for what she was going through, alone. I also felt for the men in the novel: Bohai and his brother Kaipo, and their father, whose mistakes reverberated long after his death.

The novel is told over the span of many decades, touching on the Boxer Rebellion in China, the tensions in the country at that time, through the beginning of World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor up through 1964. As a lover of history, I would not have minded a deeper look into the history of Hawaii itself during the stretch of time encompassing the story, but so much else was going on in the lives of the characters, I am not sure how it would have been fit in.

I found Diamond Head to be beautifully written, and the characters intricately drawn. I was swept into the story and into the lives of the characters, caring about them and dreaming along side them. The ending did seem a bit abrupt on one hand, at least where one of the characters was concerned, but for some of the characters it was quite satisfying. My tears were testament to that.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Cecily Wong and her book, please visit the author's website.


I hope you will check out what others had to say about Diamond Head on the TLC Book Tours route!


Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Copy of book provided by publisher for an honest review.




© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. Great review, Wendy! I enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Overall I found it to be a sad story but no doubt a thought-provoking one. And, how fate plays a huge part in it.

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    1. Melody - Thank you! It was a sad story overall. I loved Hong's realization at the end, about the danger of putting too much stock in fate and not enough into destiny.

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  2. Sorry too quick with the fingers😼you make this sound so good.

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    1. Diane - It really is a good book. I am glad I read it.

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  3. What a lovely review! And makes this book sound so very appealing. Between this review and the one that Melody wrote, I want to read Diamond Head.

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    1. Kay - Thank you! I really enjoyed it. I hope you like it if you do read it.

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  4. This sounds like a terrific, emotional read.

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    1. Kathy - It is! I am so glad I read it. I love books that make me cry. :-)

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  5. When I had first seen this book a while back I thought it was probably one I would like and after reading your thoughts I'm now sure I would enjoy it. It sounds like such a deeply emotional novel.

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    1. Darlene - I really think you might like this one Darlene. I hope you do read it!

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  6. Loving the cover of what sounds like a really emotional read. I always think it a sign of a good novel when your reduced to such heightened emotions.

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    1. Tracy - Isn't it beautiful? I really like the cover to. I agree with you. A book that makes me cry is often one I loved.

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  7. I haven't read it yet but wonder if it would translate fairly well into a movie. I can imagine the scenery becoming a "character" itself when on film. I have been to Oahu and Maui, and hubby and I did the partial hike up Diamond Head that they allow. Gorgeous sight.

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    1. Rita - It would be beautiful setting wise if made into a movie. I lived on Oahu for three years (I was a child then though) and my husband and I went to Oahu and the Big Island a few years ago for vacation. We love it there.

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  8. Love the sound of this one. I don't read too many family sagas nowadays - I used to read a ton of them at one point, but your reactions to this book have me very curious. I am going to have to TBR this book.

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    1. Athira - I enjoy a family saga now and then, but I do not read a lot of them either. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Books like this always make me wonder why I don't read more of its kind. I hope you do like this one if you decide to read it.

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  9. Great review. You really have cinched it for me and I'm putting this on my TBR list right now!

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    1. Becca - I hope you like it if you do read it. I am glad I took a chance on it.

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  10. With both you and Melody giving it a thumbs up, my interest has increased!

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    1. Jenclair - I would be interested to read your thoughts if you do read it, Jenclair. It's a book that kind of sneaked up on me in a way. I do wish the ending had been a little more drawn out--at least for the one character.

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  11. This sounds amazing and heartbreaking all at once. I love books that are told through flashbacks but they have to be well done or it can turn into a confusing muddle. That definitely doesn't sound like the case with this one. Great review!

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    1. Katherine - It was really good, I thought. I know what you mean about flashbacks not always being well done. I think Wong pulled it off in this book just fine, fortunately.

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  12. Ah the amazing feeling of tears at the end of a beautiful read - it doesn't happen often for me, but it is a wonderful feeling when a book moves me like this one did for you.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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    1. Heather - Yes, I do love a good cry at the end of a book. It happens to me more than it probably should, but mostly, I just tear up. Actual tears (or more than a couple) aren't as common. :-)

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  13. Sounds like my kind of book! Love sagas, Hawaii, and great characters.

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    1. Beth - I am so glad I read this one. I hope you like it if you give it a try.

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  14. Great review! I was already planning to read "Diamond Head," but that's mostly because we lived in Hawaii for three wonderful and now I feel like I have to read everything set there. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! (Although tears... I don't like tears!)

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    1. Lindsay - Thank you! I hope you enjoy this one when you read it. I lived in Hawaii for several years as well--but when I was quite young. My memories are more a blur than anything else. Still, I will always feel a part of me is still tied to the place, you know? Same with all the other places I have lived in my life.

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  15. Glad to hear this one's as beautiful inside as it is on the cover!

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    1. Lisa - I just love the cover! I am glad the book lived up to it. LOL

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