Originally published: 18 February 2021
Author: Julie Ma
Published by: Welbeck
Length: 346 pages
Listening Dates: 8-15 February 2021
Three generations, two secrets, one extended family . . .
Amy is thirty-four and has just given up her glittering career in the big (Welsh) city to move back in with her grandfather, returning to work in the small-town Chinese takeaway where she spent her bookish and boring childhood. Why? That’s a secret she won’t tell.
Just like the secret of why her grandfather, Ah Goong, and her father, TC Li, haven’t spoken to each other in thirty years. Weirder still, they’ve lived in the same small flat about the takeaway for the majority of those years, with Amy’s mother Joan acting as their unfortunate go-between and buffer.
Now Amy’s parents have moved, leaving her in charge of looking after the old man. But then Ah Goong collapses in the street and Amy realises time is running out if she wants to play happy families again . . .
Happy Families tells the story of Amy, who as the story begins, has just returned home to live with her family in a small Welsh town running the Chinese takeaway. She shares a flat above the takeaway with her grandfather Ah Goong. Her parents who run the takeaway live close by as does her brother Ray and his wife. Amy loves her family dearly but has never understood why her father and grandfather stopped speaking to each other over 30 years ago. It has just become one of those things that everyone has taken for granted and which they mostly choose to ignore.
Delving into the past we read about Ah Ghong and his wife Martha Yang who arrived in Cawsmenyn, Wales in 1950 and about the challenges they faced, opening the Yau Sum Takeaway. When Martha Yang dies unexpectedly, Ah Ghong is left with his young daughter and isn’t able to cope while running his business, which means she spent much of her childhood being cared for by a local Welsh couple.
There are loads of secrets to uncover in this book and they are revealed at a good pace. What made Amy return to her childhood village and give up her dreams of being a doctor? Why do Ah Ghong and her father not talk? Why has her mother’s best friend Elaine suddenly returned to the village?
Described as The Rosie Project meets Gavin & Stacey, I thought this was charming and heart-warming, I really enjoyed this multi-generational story told with warmth and humour. Happy Families is a great character driven novel and I really enjoyed my time with the Li family.
Thank you to Maddie at Welbeck for the gifted proof copy.
About the author:
Julie Ma is the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller 2020.
As she now has an Amazon Author Page, she thinks she can legitimately call herself a writer. That time she wrote online product reviews for £0.03 per word probably didn’t count. Neither did the times she wrote replies to customer complaints for Virgin Media, Santander, Lloyds Bank and BT.
She firmly believes in the ratio of 70% backside-in-the-chair writing time and 30% thinking about writing while walking a dog. Her most glamorous moment was being kindly congratulated on winning the competition while bending over to scoop some poop.
She lives in west Wales with far too many members of her immediate family a stone’s throw away.