Frank look at marriage, motherhood and friendships

FICTION

TRAVAILS OF A TRAILING SPOUSE

By Stephanie Suga Chen

Straits Times Press/ Paperback/ 332 pages/ $18.90/ All leading bookstores from Jan 15/ 4/5 stars

The perfect companion for a relaxing Sunday evening bath, Stephanie Suga Chen's debut novel about an expatriate family in Singapore makes for an easy, enjoyable read.

A successful Taiwanese-American lawyer, Sarah Lee was one of the youngest lawyers at her San Francisco firm to make partner.

And yet, the young mother of two hates her job and wants something different.

So when her husband Jason, a young neurologist, finds a research position in Singapore at a prominent local university, Sarah leaps at the chance to quit her job and follow him across the globe.

The novel follows the adventures of Sarah, Jason and their two young children - Ruby, four, and Eric, 22 months - as they settle into their new lives.

In Singapore, the family move into The Manchester, a condominium where they become fast friends with other expatriates from around the world.

Each of their new friends and neighbours brings with him his own set of quirks, creating a group of dynamic characters.

The core group of four couples navigate their new lives, relying on one another for support, steering through and around affairs, crumbling marriages and even a night in prison.

While the novel does focus more on the domestic and everyday aspects of life in Singapore, the author (herself an expatriate here) manages to capture the complexities of friendships and relationships and provides an engaging and relatable look into life in Singapore - whether the reader is an expatriate or not.

All in all, the novel keeps the reader interested, without becoming overly convoluted.

If you like this, read: Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Epigram Books, 2016, $26.64, Books Kinokuniya), another relatable and unique look into Singaporean culture, exploring the hidden histories of families and communities through the eyes of a young Punjabi girl.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2017, with the headline 'Frank look at marriage, motherhood and friendships'. Print Edition | Subscribe