Australian writer Jessica O tells of an extraordinary journey. The daughter is from Melbourne, the mother is from Hong Kong. They meet in Tokyo. The trip together has been planned for a long time.
The two were not close, and they did not have a familiar common language. One of the mother tongues was Cantonese and the other was English. The mother had emigrated to Australia as a young woman, painstakingly learned English here, raised her two daughters and then returned to Hong Kong. The daughter is at home in Australia, she studied there and found her love.
There is a cold emotional temperature between the two women. However, the title does not stem from that, but from the mother’s wish that one day the weather would be cold enough for snow. Because she had never seen him before.
Mother and daughter as a mirror image
The daughter elaborated a detailed program of their days together: fairs and restaurant visits, long walks and church visits. She wants to share special moments with her mother, looking at photos that mean something to her. However, the mother is happy when she can shop extensively.
There is no intimate relationship between the two women. They are polite and try hard, but find neither common ground nor friendliness. They can’t even agree on the few family tales. The mother was and still is a stranger in the world and in relation to the daughter. And she realizes, by reflecting on her mother, that she’s always been weird too. How much she resembles her sweet mother, with whom she never quarreled.
She recalls a college job at a Chinese restaurant where she played the always polite Chinese guy, or her relationship with an ex-boyfriend she never contradicted, or a smart lecturer she wanted to please. Compatibility and ambition are constants throughout her life. And the recent hike she did without her exhausted mother was also planned as a self-discovery item on the agenda.
With this meticulously curated novel, Jessica Au embarks on an impressive search for soul. It’s about a complex mother-daughter relationship, but it’s also about the memories and the self-searching of an ambitious young woman. And the question of how and what we remember when we look at our lives and the lives of our parents and brothers.
They are summaries and literary explorations in which the plans of modern life meet the lives of ancient immigrants. The daughter’s longings and beliefs contrast with those of the mother, who believes that “we are all really nothing, just an accumulation of feelings and desires that do not last. She grew up, she said, never feeling herself isolated, but as intimately connected with others. Nowadays, As she said, people want to know everything and imagine that they can understand everything, as if enlightenment is around the corner, but in reality there is no control and no understanding that does not relieve pain.
Finally understand each other
Only at the end of the journey will the young woman understand a little better what her mother means: “Perhaps, I thought exhaustedly, it is okay if you do not understand everything, if you have just noticed and recorded things.” And that is precisely what Jessica O did in this poetic novel: it was captured and realized.
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