Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gold Mountain by Anne Azel

Publisher:               P. D. Publishing

Asian culture gave birth to a concept called minimalism. The idea is to create a picture or image by providing as little information as possible and then letting the viewer or reader's imagination fill in the gaps; thereby creating a more complete picture than was actually presented. An example of this is Japanese haiku where the skillful use of a few syllables creates a complete poem. Perhaps this is what Anne Azel was trying to do when she wrote Gold Mountain. Since the story is set primarily in a transplanted Asian setting, that style seems appropriate, but it presents challenges for people who are not used to that type of reading.

Kelly Li is a second-generation Chinese woman living in Canada. As the second daughter in the family, she was a special disappointment to her father who wanted to have a son more than anything, so Kelly has had to struggle on her own to succeed in the Gold Mountain, the name given by the Chinese to the Americas in the 1800s. Despite the rejection of most of her family, she has created a life as a successful attorney, only to have that threatened by family duty, something that Kelly cannot escape, when she is drawn into a murder that has its roots in the twisted dynamics between her relatives. Her obligations to her family also threaten to destroy a budding relationship with Jane Anderson, a policewoman who is struggling to come to grips with her own sexual orientation. Jane is attempting to deal with honesty on different levels. She is trying to live her life as she truly feels she should after a period of living with deception. She also finds herself in the position of being a law enforcement official drawn to someone who at best is lying to her and at worst may be a murderer. She has to weigh her own feelings against what is best for her young daughter. This is the story of both of these women as they struggle to align family obligations with the lives they would like to live and try to mesh those lives so that they can be together.

Gold Mountain has great potential to demonstrate the differences between cultures and it does give some insight into that, but the style that Azel chooses to use keeps the story from fully developing. The characters don't seem complete. The reader may not totally grasp what causes them to react the way they do to situations. There are hints at their motivations, but not well-articulated explanations. Azel tells the story by having alternating chapters expressing each character's point of view, but there is no blending of those views; nowhere to say here is A and B and how they fit together. If the reader likes a story where all of the plot points are told and explained, then there may be difficulties with reading this book. 

This is similar to reading a heavily outlined story where the parts have not been connected smoothly. There is a great deal of information, but it's incomplete. The reader knows where the characters are going and how they get there, but the rich detail is missing. Incidents seem rushed and tied up almost too neatly.  There is a good story in what is written, but it requires work on the part of the reader to pull it out.  Anne Azel has experimented with a different style. Whether or not she has been successful is left up to the reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment