Book Review | Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best

Elaine Lui
Advance Reader Copy, 223 pages
Publication date:
April 1st 2014
Random House Canada
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My siblings and I grew up with not one, but two Asian immigrant moms. The first being of course our biological mothers, and the second being her older sister, our aunt, who we add the prefix “ma” in front of her name instead of calling her “auntie”. So I can definitely relate to many of the things mentioned in Elaine Luis’s sort of memoir. However in my case, my mom’s older sister fits more of the stereotypes of “Chinese” moms than my actual mother. This was probably the main draw for me when it came to this book; I love reading non-fiction especially those that I know I can relate to. My “moms” both used shaming and public embarrassment as well as guilt to get us to do what they want us to do. This mostly consisted of not being lazy and working hard instead of day dreaming.

What makes Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best (I know – long title, right?) unique, in my opinion, is that it tells real stories of both Elaine and her mother aka”the squawking chicken” while at the same time incorporating elements of Chinese superstition and mythology into real life events in the book. I actually learned a lot more about Chinese culture than I did before as many of the traditions aren’t practiced in my family.

The Squawking Chicken is quite a fascinating character, and after learning about her past we get a better sense that she is a person who was reborn as the person she became out of the circumstances in her life. She is also someone who I would love to meet out of curiosity, but would probably be too intimidated to meet in real life. Though Elaine comments many times that this is her mother’s story, by the end of the book I felt like it was more of a story about both of them with a particular spotlight on the special mother-daughter relationship Elaine and her mother share.

Although Listen to the Squawking Chicken is a very short read, it is full of substance within its pages. There is also a good mix of hilarious moments like when the Squawking Chicken rounds up a bunch of her mah-jong playmates to go confront a home wrecker. This, however, is balanced out with serious moments – such as the story of the Squawking Chicken’s past and her inability to keep friends. Overall Listen to the Squawking Chicken: a Daughter’s Blueprint for Life from the Mother Who Thinks She Knows Best is a highly enjoyable read that I think will make many think twice about taking their mothers for granted.

My squawking chickens.
My squawking chickens.

UPDATE: I recently got to meet Elaine (aka Lainey) at a signing she did in Toronto and received both an arc signed for my sister, as well as a personalized finished copy of her book for me. I was extremely nervous and didn’t say much when I met her, but Lainey was incredibly kind in person as she took the time to chat with me and even got up when I asked to take a picture with her. Also just wanted to give a shout out here to the Random House publicist, Adria who was at the event. Thank you for making me feel extremely welcomed and comfortable. Overall it was a great event, and it was really interesting to hear Lainey speak in person about her experiences writing her book and about her mother.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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