Spanning eighty-five years and exploring themes of isolation, immigration, romance and sanity, The End of East is an incredibly moving portrait of one emblematic family and Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Samantha Chan returns home to Vancouver to care for her aging mother, abruptly leaving an unfinished life in Montreal. Feeling abandoned by her four sisters and resentful at the city she thought she had escaped forever, she finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history and delving into stories that began in 1913, when her grandfather, Seid Quan, then eighteen years old, first stepped on to North American soil.
The End of East weaves in and out of past and present, picking up the threads of Sam’s grandparents and parents: Seid Quan, whose loneliness in this foreign country is profound even as he joins the Chinatown community; Shew Lin, whose hopes for her family are threatened by her own actions; Pon Man’s tension between obligation and desire; and Siu Sang, who tries to be the caregiver everyone expects, even as she feels herself unravelling. Through it all, Samantha, who carries within her all the conflicts of the past, is embroiled in her own struggle, a volatile mixture of dangerous love affairs, a difficult and duty-filled relationship with her mother, and the still-fresh memories of her father’s long illness.
An exquisite and evocative debut, The End of East sets family conflicts against the backdrop of Vancouver’s Chinatown—a city within a city where dreams are shattered as quickly as they’re built, and where history repeats itself through the generations.
Knopf Canada, New Face of Fiction, 2007
Thomas Dunne Books, 2008
“Lee is a courageous young writer.”
–The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Beautifully crafted, The End of East moves seamlessly from era to era, country to country. Lee tells a provocative and deeply moving tale about how ethnic identity creates an emotional battlefield for those trying to traverse two cultures in one country.”
–The Baltimore Sun
“Only 30, Lee has crafted one of the most sophisticated and structurally complex novels published in Canada in years. Perhaps, more importantly, she has created an emotional powerhouse of a novel about a family unable to express their love for one another.”
–The Halifax Chronicle-Herald
“Vancouver native Jen Sookfong Lee’s first novel is impressive, both in terms of its accomplished prose and its ambitious three-generational scope…Lee’s talent is undeniable.”
–The National Post
“Jen Sookfong Lee is aware, it would seem, of the dark side of mythmaking, its distorting and even parasitic price. It’s one of many things that make her a novelist to watch.”
–The Calgary Herald
“With The End of East, Lee has constructed an accomplished and complex story about the intricate set of issues that surround Chinese-Canadian identity, a story that will ring true for Canadians of other backgrounds.”
–The Montreal Gazette
“Jen Lee shows off a confident style, investing The End of East with rich imagery and well-wrought characters and deftly handling the complexities of the various storylines.”
–The Vancouver Sun