Cody Quan Act I: Broken Faith by Louis Leung, 216 pages, October 20, 2013, Genre: Asian–American Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
Review by Leigh Holland
It’s fitting that Broken Faith begins with a powerful emotional and spiritual ritual- baptism. Cody likens it to the experience of being in a mother’s womb and emerging, an apt description of the physical and emotional process involved. Cody Quan is a relatively successful adult Asian-American male, navigating through the tempestuous waters of relationships, religion, and race in America. The rigors of life are, for Cody, a potent transformative experience.
An interesting window into Asian-American culture, there’s no denying Cody has problems to deal with. When he admits his Christianity to Skinny Grandma, she reminds him the family is Buddhist. His mother tries to maintain a vice-like grip over his life, as though she wants to keep him an eternal child. His cousin Duke is a genuinely unlikable condescending jerk. And his grandfather wants him to marry his cousin from Beijing to make more heirs to the Quan name.
As if Cody didn’t have enough pressure from his family, he has high expectations for his own love life as well. With the family expectation that he will marry an Asian woman, dating is difficult. Cody has his heart set on Daphne, a fellow Christian at his church. Daphne tells Cody right out of the gate that they will never be more than friends because she is into white men. Cody laments that all the Asian-American women are into white guys. Although Daphne becomes friends with Cody, she behaves inconsiderately towards him.
There are problems at the church as well. None of the leaders and active members are as holy as they pretend to be. They look down on those they feel are less moral than they are, openly belittling some of them. Dirt gets swept under the rug and appearances matter more than the reality beneath. Throughout all of Cody’s experiences, Cody tries to remain faithful, but the reasons to abandon faith pile up quickly for Cody. All people grapple with the impossible question of why bad things happen to good people. By the end of Cody Quan Act I: Broken Faith, Cody has decided that if Jesus were both good and powerful, bad things wouldn’t happen to good people. While it is a sad moment, it empowers Cody to stop trying to impress people who don’t care about him. Cody is transformed.
My favorite supporting characters are Skinny Grandma and Zoey. Zoey is a single mom who stands up for her child even in the face of group derision. It takes courage to leave one’s own larger group, even one that mistreats you. Zoey correctly realizes what many of them do not: love is about how people treat you and you belong where people love you. Skinny Grandma faced the horrors of the Japanese occupation of China in WW2. She aided others in hiding and escaping at great risk to herself. She was the cornerstone of her family. These women were strong, each in their own unique way.
I enjoyed reading this book. The pacing, plot, and characters were well developed. Symbolic imagery, life events, and themes tied together consistently and enhanced the experience. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Asian-American literature or character driven stories.
Other acts are available. You can find Louis Leung’s work at Cody Quan