book review – the surprising power of a good dumpling by wai chim

i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

this post is part of the blog tour for the surprising power of a good dumpling by wai chim, organized by terminal tours! thank you so much for the opportunity ❤


The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An authentic novel about growing up in a migrant Asian family with a mother who is suffering from a debilitating mental illness.
Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she’s not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father’s restaurant, she’s taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.
But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important read.

representation: hong kong chinese australian main character, queer side characters, depression
trigger warnings:
depression, delusions, suicide attempt, racism

there are spoilers in this review. to view them, highlight the concealed text.

the surprising power of a good dumpling was a touching and meaningful story which touched upon heavier topics like mental illness but at the same time gave me the warmest feelings

i’ll never cease to be amazed by the surprising power of a good dumpling.

the surprising power of a good dumpling by wai chim

i first came cross the book on cw’s book blog, the quiet pond. she called it “perhaps the best book about mental illness, asian identity, and family” that she’s read – ever. as expected, dumpling was just as incredible as cw described it to be, and although it’s only been a day since i’ve finished reading the book, i already know it’s one of those stories that will continue to stay with me for many years to come.

Bao Pixar GIF - Bao Pixar - Discover & Share GIFs

as a local hong kong kid, growing up was much easier for me as compared to the main character anna. i could, however, relate to her experiences with feeling like she didn’t belonged, and the struggles with her identity and microaggressions – whenever i traveled, people would take one look at my face and assume mandarin was my native language, and that always made me feel out of place. on top of that, one of my favorite things about the book was the representation of cantonese culture – i particularly loved the inclusion of cantonese jyutping and how perfectly it captures anna’s family relationship dynamics! these little bits and pieces meant the world to me, and i am sure that it will be just as meaningful for other chinese readers, especially diaspora readers ❤ (please check out these #ownvoices chinese australian reviews: karen’s review, zitong’s review)

speaking of anna’s family, i absolutely how the raw and realistic way in which author portrayed the love-hate relationship between anna and her younger sister. their eye-rolls and little jabs at each other were balanced out by hugs and words of comfort. also, it’s evident how much anna cares for her family, helping at at her father’s restaurant despite struggling with her studies and taking care of her younger siblings when her mother is unwell. she is the kind of person who always puts the needs of others before her own, and i really admired her sense of responsibility and selflessness.

the mental illness taboo in chinese culture was also depicted really well. among chinese people, it is common for only physical health to be considered under the broader concept of “health”, and mental health is often overlooked. it’s comforting to see anna and her family, at first reluctant to discuss her mother’s mental health problems and erratic behaviour, slowly gain the strength to talk about them more openly. moreover, the author does not skip over the more “difficult” parts of mental illness , and writes about relapses and the occasional bad day too.

there are so many more things to love about the book: the wong kar wai movie references! the cantonese profanities! jit6 hei3! the cute romance! the surprising power of a good dumpling is equal parts raw, heartwarming, and important. it’s now available in the usa – make sure to grab a copy and indulge in all the literary dumplings!


Wai Chim is a first-generation Chinese-American from New York City. Growing up speaking Cantonese around the house, she absorbed as much Western culture as she could through books, TV, and school. She spent some time living in Japan before making Sydney, Australia, her permanent home. In addition to her writing, Wai works as a digital producer/web developer for The Starlight Children’s Foundation, whose programs offer entertainment, education, and technology to critically, chronically, and terminally ill children. Learn more about her at waichim.com.


have you read the surprising power of a good dumpling? what were your thoughts? let me know in the comments below ❤

4 thoughts on “book review – the surprising power of a good dumpling by wai chim

  1. It seems like a really good book and you’ve got to love mental health representation. The only thing that potentially made me shy away from the book was I heard there was a big age difference between Anna and the male character she’s interested in.

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