The Money Dragon

Written by Pam Chun
Review by Andrea Connell

According to author Pam Chun, in late 19th and early 20th century China, a man’s status was heightened through his accumulation of wives, sons, and property. Lau Ah Leong is determined to acquire these trappings of prestige at all costs. After surviving a poverty-stricken childhood in China, he leaves his homeland for the Hawaiian Islands, where, despite facing innumerable obstacles, he is determined to succeed. After a tumultuous beginning, Ah Leong eventually establishes himself as a prosperous businessman with all the wealth he could imagine. And this is where his troubles begin. The story of the Ah Leong family explodes with soap operatic drama and political and cultural struggles.

The Money Dragon is the true story of the author’s great-grandfather. As such, the story is imbued with great enthusiasm for its subject. The plot is gripping, and the narrative is a lively blend of history and storytelling. Although I found the writing to be a bit choppy and repetitive at times, it did not diminish my enjoyment of this captivating and enlightening story. Keep in mind, though, that the historical perspective is understandably biased, given the author’s personal connection to the people and events of this era.