Van and Linny are two sisters living in the Chicago suburbs. Van, the eldest, has a high flying law career and a seemingly perfect husband - who's just walked out on her for another woman. Linny, on the other hand, is struggling to hold down a job and is having an affair with a married man. But when their father goes for his American citizenship test to try and sell his invention, the Luong Arm (which helps short people reach items in high places), they grow closer than they ever expected to.
I'm sure that anyone with siblings, and particularly two sisters, will be able to relate to not just one, but both of the Luong girls. In a world - and a culture - where strigent expectations are placed on them, their flaws in failing to succeed in these expectations make them instantly more lovable. Most of us know one or the other, perhaps both, or can identify ourselves with them, giving the novel a strong resonance to its target audience. However, the overarching theme of the book to me is distance and escape. Every main character is isolated from the other main characters - the sisters themselves, the sisters and their father, Van and her husband, Linny and her lover, their father from his home in Vietnam, it goes on. For that reason, the most touching relationship for me in the novel is that between Linny and her father, culminating in an argument with Van where she bursts forth into marking herself out as one of the only characters to lower her defences and make us truly warm to her. That said though there are also some funny (if unintentionally so) moments, such as the sisters' stakeout of Van's husband's new home which ends in a dramatic twist.
In short: There are dark undercurrents bubbling away in the background, but overall this is a charming, heartwarming tale of two sisters learning to become friends as well as family.