by Frances Park
When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon
Talk Miramax Books, June, 2001.
Trade Paperback, 276 pages.
In 1970s Washington, D.C., there are very few Korean-American families living in the suburbs. Cleopatra Moon tells the story of two sisters, the beautiful Cleopatra and the bookish, shy Marcy, and their relationship with each other and with their parents. Marcy always looked up to her wild, fun-loving sister and when Cleo finally left home, Marcy was devastated. Eventually, Marcy went to live in abject poverty to help the White Sky Native Americans, while Cleopatra married, had two children, and founded a wildly successful gourmet foods business. Years later, when Cleo's husband dies, she asks Marcy to come and stay with her. The two sisters will clash as all the old resentments and rivalries of childhood surface in an explosive denouement.
When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon is a haunting, funny and memorable novel which has as its heart the pull and tug of intricate family relationships. The anxious and shy Marcy, the outwardly outrageous Cleopatra, their shy, withdrawn mother who has never adjusted to America, and their father who works constantly, is always cheerful, yet suffers terribly from insomnia, are all expertly drawn characters. Marcy's father's story is particularly moving, as are his letters home from his travels to his youngest daughter. The novel focuses on several issues: the relationship between the sisters, the relationship between Marcy and her father, and the subtle and pervasive racism faced by the girls while they were growing up. There is love, loss, rage and healing in this well-crafted novel. Crisp dialogue and a sharp sense of humor (especially when Marcy's neuroses about her sister are totally revealed) keep the novel from bogging down into treacly sentimentality. Frances Park has crafted a tender, moving and ultimately joyous novel which would make perfect summer reading material.
When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon is available for purchase on Amazon.com
Reprinted with permission from The Internet Writing Journal®.
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