Review: Handpicked

Handpicked by Siew Siang Tay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Each time I come across a young Asian girl with an older Caucasian male couple (which is not a rare occurrence these days), I wonder what their story is. In fact, one of my childhood bestie married an older Caucasian male. I don’t particularly understand her choice but when she was living in Bali, she was dating (attracted to?) mostly older Caucasian males. This is, indeed, her choice and her personal taste.

Laila, however, felt trapped in a world she has come to despise. She longs to move on in the world; to not be poor, to be appreciated as the woman she is, as a person. When a new life in Australia presented itself to her, she will leave all she knows behind for what she hopes is a better future. When she arrives in Australia though, she found things were not what she expected it to be. And life doesn’t appear to be much better at all… And Jim is not who he presented himself to be in his letters…

Jim longs for that someone to cleave to. It’s no wonder really as to why he hasn’t much luck with women. He is a slob – full of good intention but without the will to follow through. Unfortunately, this seems to be due to his upbringing. He is, however, the typical Aussie bloke – easy going, loves his beer & footy and loves a laugh. He does not lie outright but instead wove a net of white lies and omissions of truth from which he cannot escape gracefully.

The novel was very easy to read. I found the language to be quite simple and yet, you could feel the heat of the summer, each breeze as it licked the skin, and of course, Laila’s angst and frustration. I was frustrated quite a lot with this novel: with Laila’s naivety (who am I to judge when I was pretty naïve myself!?), Jim’s failures, and the turn of the story.

Truthfully, I do believe this story is realistic and while it’s not the best type of story / outcome for a young Asian girl throwing herself into the big bad Western world, it’s also not the worst. There were a number of eye-rolling moments, wince worthy instances, and one harrowing incident but I can still imagine worst things that could have happened to someone like Laila. Overall, it was a pretty average read for me.

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