**WINNER OF THE RICHARD & JUDY / WHSMITH SEARCH FOR A BESTSELLER 2020**
Three generations, two secrets, one extended family . . .
~ Happy Families
[ About the Book ]
Set in rural Wales, Happy Families shines a tender, funny and heartwarming light on the lives of three generations of a Chinese immigrant family.
When was the last time you paid much attention to the person behind the counter of your local Chinese takeaway?
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 faith, TC Li, haven’t spoken to each other in thirty years. Weirder still, they’ve lived in the same small flat above 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 time is running out if Amy wants to play happy families before it’s too late.
[ My Review ]
Happy Families by Julie Ma will be published February 18th with Welbeck. In October 2020, Happy Families was chosen as the winner of The Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. With over nine hundred entries, Julie May came out tops becoming a debut author at the age of fifty-one.
“We thought Happy Families was GREAT – absolutely, bloody great. It’s a wonderful story, and she’s such a talented, funny writer. We think this has real appeal to a wide audience and are thrilled to choose it as the winner. Julie Ma is a rare find.”
– Richard Madeley
Described as‘refreshing and original, perfect for fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Rosie Project and Gavin & Stacey‘ Julie Ma has written a novel set in a place you never really read about in fiction, a Chinese take-away. Julie Ma has had various careers since qualifying from Aberyswyth University before she finally ‘took up the helm at the family takeaway.’ This was her inspiration for Happy Families.
‘The desire to write had always been there and, aware that the stereotypical view of British-Chinese women she saw on TV, film and in books didn’t represent her life, she set about to write a story she recognised.’
Happy Families is set in a small Welsh village where Amy Li has returned home from Cardiff, moved in with her grandfather, Ah Goong, and is now back working in the family takeaway. Wonderfully depicted, the relationship between Amy, Ah Goong and her extended family captivates the reader immediately. If you watched the brilliant series Kim’s Convenience on Netflix, you will instantly be enamoured by all the characters featured in this tale. A family caught up in the everyday, making ends meet. A family that were originally outsiders in this small town but are now an accepted and enjoyed institution among the local community.
As the story reveals itself we are given snippets of life for Ah Goong when he first arrived in the UK. With dreams and ambitions, he was very much in love with his wife. Together they could conquer this strange new world. But life has a way of throwing curve balls and Ah Goong’s journey was to change dramatically in those early years, which was to have a huge impact on his daughter, Joan, Amy’s mother.
Joan married TC Li but his relationship with Ah Goong is brittle. The two men haven’t communicated for years, for reasons never explained to Amy and her brother. It just became an accepted part of their lives. But now all is to be upended for Amy when Ah Goong collapses in the street.
For the most part of the book, we never really know why Amy returned home but as the story reveals itself, Julie Ma expertly threads the past and the present together, and we slowly understand why she is there. Amy, now fearful that her grandfather will slip away before the rift between her father and grandfather is repaired, sets about exploring the family history and piecing together the secrets of her family’s past.
Julie Ma has written a truly wonderful piece of fiction. There is a genuine humour running through this novel supported by a very natural style of writing. Authentic is the word that can best be used to describe this marvellous debut. It is a very warm and fulfilling story about the everyday dramas and secret pasts of an immigrant family living in Wales, who also happen to own a Chinese takeaway. What is there not to love about that?
Happy Families is a delightfully charming story filled with lovable characters and was an absolute joy to read. Julie Ma’s writing has a very sincere feeling to it, unaffected and clean, making it very appealing and accessible to all. I was thoroughly entertained and I wish Julie Ma every success with Happy Families and her future writing. Where will she go next I wonder?
“I would like everybody to read my book but especially anyone who has ever been in a shop and given a thought to the other life led by the person serving them. Everybody has something more to them than being a woman behind a counter in Next or a man on the till in Aldi. Or even the girl who’s serving you a Chinese takeaway!”
– Julie Ma
[ Bio ]
Julie Ma is the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller 2020.
She firmly believes in the ratio of 70% backside-in-the-chair writing time and 30% thinking about writing while walking a dog. She lives in west Wales with far too many members of her immediate family a stone’s throw away.
Her first novel Happy Families will be published on 18 February 2021.
Twitter – @reallyjuliema