Hyperion, Jul 2001, 12.95, 276 pp.
Though sisters, Korean-Americans Cleo and Marcy have not talked for years. That changes when the forty-two years old Cleo calls to tell her younger sister that her husband Stu just died. Apparently, the wealthy Stu lost control of the car when lightning suddenly struck right in front of him. Marcy drops everything to race to Cleo's side to help her with the funeral even knowing the true dark side of her sibling and that she probably never loved Stu.
Marcy thinks back to when they were young and she idolized her gorgeous and fiery unconventional (at least in the Korean culture) sister. That is until Cleo left for college, came back on summer break, and left again for school, leaving Marcy to contend with their Korean born mother who never adjusted to her new country. Marcy resented Cleo then and resents her now as she watches a pro shed crocodile tears to gain sympathy from Stu's side.
WHEN MY SISTER WAS CLEOPATRA MOON is an incredible novel that works on three levels: the rivalry between sisters, the Korean-American 1970s experience, and the difficulty of an immigrant to adapt to this country. The story line is insightful yet quite entertaining as readers will appreciate the key players. If this novel is any indication of her talent, Frances Park is going to become a star as she provides her readers with a convincing character study.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner