In All That Matters by Wayson Choy, Kiam-Kim Chen travels as a small boy to Vancouver, B.C., from China. Kiam-Kim, along with his father and Poh-Poh (his grandmother) have come to this new land to begin life again. Escaping a China that has begun to collapse under economic pressure and the military might of Japan, they come to a country that is unsure how to handle a growing Chinese presence. Eventually the family invites new members into their home: a woman from their native land to take the place of a wife and mother who has died, and an adopted son.
Each member of the family comes to Canada with a different purpose. The father hopes to earn a comfortable living for his family and provide a mother to Kiam-Kim as well as additional children. Poh-Poh seeks to escape her past as a child slave while reminding her family to remain Chinese. Kiam-Kim simply longs to fit into this new land. This is a novel that beautifully portrays the conflict between retaining a native culture while embracing the new.
Writing from the viewpoint of the young son Kiam-Kim as he grows is a perfect choice for Choy. Youth always struggle to fit in with their surroundings, finding their place in a changing world. He is the fulcrum between the fatherís adoption of Western views and the grandmotherís ties to traditional Chinese values. He is pulled in both directions while he works to find a comfortable medium.
Unfortunately, at times the novel struggles with a feeling of indifference, occasionally avoiding the aftermath of events that would seemingly be at the forefront of Kiam-Kimís mind. This leaves the reader wondering how something so powerful could be so easily dismissed, particularly by one so young.
However, Choy has written a remarkable second novel. It is a revelation for those not familiar with the trials of moving to a country with radically different cultural views. All That Matters is a delightful read that will leave a lasting impression on the reader.