Hummingbirds Fly Backwards by Amy Cheung

Hummingbirds Fly Backwards by Amy Cheung is a emotional journey of a novel that is dramatic, insightful, sexist, introspective, narcissistic, and desirous of love and martyrdom. This look into the lives of three Asian women and the men they have fallen in love with is well written and culturally insightful, but still, I had the overwhelming need to hire Rhonda Rousey to go out and bitch slap all three of these women.

“…If a woman can make a man think she’s sexy without finding her vulgar, then the bra did its job.
Smart women understand that sexiness is an investment. That’s why we have no shortage of customers-even with the hefty price tags.
Our customers consist primarily of high-income career women. Rich housewives aren’t willing to spend that kind of money. I saw the bra of a rich housewife once. It was worn to tatters, and the underwire was even sticking out. When a women gets married, it’s all too easy for her to assume that everything is perfectly settled, so there’s no need to worry about lingerie anymore. The biggest enemy of the lingerie business isn’t the economic climate-it’s marriage. What is good for business, though, are extramarital affairs…”

It is the 1990s in Hong Kong and Chow Jeoi is a lingerie saleswoman in love with a married man. She waits for him to make time for her even though this often leaves her very lonely. As she approaches her thirtieth birthday she is beginning to rethink her life and her relationship. Her best friend is a beautiful but aging fashion model, Chui Yuk. Chui is in love with an aspiring writer and is willing to do anything to help him further his career, even to the point of destroying her own. Yau Ying is an old friend of Chow’s whose relationship of seven years has lost it’s passion and she now feels that her lover has found another.

“…You were the one who wanted to end it, so he didn’t come looking for you. And yet you’re unhappy about it,’ Chui Yuk said.
‘Even if you tell a man that you want to break up with him, aren’t you allowed to want him to beg you to stay…”

First off let me say that this was really a good book. It was well written and for a novel that had to be translated from its original language, it flowed incredibly well and the prose made the reading very enjoyable. Its the characters. I don’t think I have ever met or read of three women who thought process and mindset could make me cringe more.

Chow is a kept woman. Her apartment is bought and paid for by her married lover. Yet it is her that feels that life is unfair that he needs to go home to his wife. It is her that feels that he is taking advantage of her. She throws tantrums like a two year old and then is emotionally distraught when she doesn’t get her way. When she breaks up with him she is upset that he doesn’t come crawling and instead does the horrific act of respecting her decision. He gives her the apartment and in anger she sells it (and then breaks down in tears over doing it) and tries to give a check for it. If she really wanted to give him the money back she would have given him cash, let’s be real here. When he professes his love for her she refuses to acknowledge it even though she has been pining to hear him say that for most of the book. When Sam her lover dies, her immediate reaction is almost one of anger toward him for abandoning her. Honestly, how dare the heartless bastard go off and just die like that? Really! Men!!

Chui Yuk is a beautiful woman who is in love with a dreamer. An aspiring science fiction writer who is struggling and she is willing to do most anything for so he can find success. When she agrees to compromise who she is for him, it has devastating results. Worse when she finds that he is not the dream man she had believed in her delusion of love for him to be.

Yau Ying is a successful young woman whose breast size has always made her feel unloved and inferior. Now that she is older she is positive that her small and sagging boobs have driven the man she loves into the arms of another woman. She is obsessive over this and even stalks and assaults another woman that she feels is stealing her lover.

The men in their lives are nothing to get excited about it either. Sam, Chow’s married lover, cannot seem to make up his mind about what he wants. He truly loves Chow but convention and family make it impossible to leave his wife for his younger lover. He puts up with her tantrums and mood swings for the love he feels for her. Yu, Chui’s young aspiring writer is so full of himself and his dream that he doesn’t see the sacrifices made around and for him. When he finds out he sulks and hides away. Daihoi, Yau’s lover is in a rut and unable to communicate his feelings for Yau, so instead of talking to the woman he loves, he goes out and has an affair after all.

Beneath this tale of love gone crazy is the under lying theme that breasts make the woman. A woman is valued by the size and beauty of her breasts and that is what gives her value as a person. Really, seriously. This is a novel written by a woman, about women. If it was written by a man, I’m sure the villagers would storming the castle right about now.

“…When you love someone, you have to hate them a little. You hate them because they make it impossible for you to hate them. Sam was someone that I hated…”

This novel states that it is about personal growth for these three women and I could not disagree more. What this novel is about is that when a woman turns thirty…she pretty much goes bat-shit crazy.


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