Diamond Head: A Novel

Diamond Head: A Novel

4.7 7
by Cecily Wong

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A sweeping debut spanning from China to Hawaii that follows four generations of a wealthy shipping family whose rise and decline is riddled with secrets and tragic love—from a young, powerful new voice in fiction.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of


A sweeping debut spanning from China to Hawaii that follows four generations of a wealthy shipping family whose rise and decline is riddled with secrets and tragic love—from a young, powerful new voice in fiction.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. The parable of the red string of fate, the cord that binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes for mistakes in love, passing a destructive knot down the family line.

When Frank Leong is murdered, his family is thrown into a perilous downward spiral. Left to rebuild in their patriarch’s shadow, the surviving members of the Leong family try their hand at a new, ordinary life, vowing to bury their gilded past. Still, the island continues to whisper—fragmented pieces of truth and chatter, until a letter arrives two decades later, carrying a confession that shatters the family even further.

Now the Leongs’ survival rests with young Theresa, Frank Leong’s only grandchild, eighteen and pregnant, the heir apparent to her ancestors’ punishing knots.

Told through the eyes of the Leong’s secret-keeping daughters and wives and spanning The Boxer Rebellion to Pearl Harbor to 1960s Hawaii, Diamond Head is a breathtakingly powerful tale of tragic love, shocking lies, poignant compromise, aching loss, heroic acts of sacrifice and, miraculous hope.

Editorial Reviews

“Wong’s multigenerational Hawaiian saga of deception and loyalty evocatively captures the tightly controlled worlds of privilege and power.”
Celeste Ng
“Cecily Wong’s lush debut novel hooked me in right away as it slowly unraveled the tangle of secrets the Leong family has kept for decades. Diamond Head is an intricate meditation on what is in our control and what is fate.”
Yangsze Choo
“Cecily Wong’s Diamond Head is a shimmering tapestry of secrets and betrayals, beautifully told through the eyes of the women of the wealthy Leong family. An eye-opening, poignant read set against the backdrop of Hawaii’s rich history.”
Rebecca Wells
“Ms. Wong’s first novel is a vivid story of a family’s journey over time. We live and breathe with her characters as we witness history shaping family, and family creating its own history. Diamond Head is a jewel of a saga.”
Mary Gordon
Diamond Head takes the family saga to a new and very high place. . . . Readers will follow the fortunes of this family breathlessly, hungry for more.”
Gail Tsukiyama
“[A] rich and compelling debut novel. . . . With keen insight, effused with sadness and hope, Diamond Head is an auspicious debut.”
“Wong will utterly transport you through her breathtaking prose in this impressively crafted story.”
“[A] lush, vivid, and unpredictable narrative.”
Iron Mountain Daily News
“An impressive story of romance stretching from early twentieth century China to Hawaii in 1964. . . . In this story of three generations of Chinese immigrants, ancient traditions and family secrets threaten the Leong clan in this captivating story of ill-fated romance set in beautiful island of Oahu.”
New York Journal of Books
“In Diamond Head, Wong has crafted a delicate tower of mystery and history. . . . Wong’s prose is lyrical and nearly poetic. . . . Lovely.”
Book Riot
“A hot summer day is perfect for this sweeping multi-generational family saga which takes the reader from China to Hawaii.”
“This lyrical novel held my heart captive from its opening. . . . A literary heartbreaker of a novel about the ways the heart betrays us, the ways it leads us to the truth.”
Tampa Bay Times
“A sweeping historical saga about several generations of the powerful Leong family.”

The family of Frank Leong had been living in splendor, but the murder of the Chinese shipping magnate had splintered everything. Reduced to their own devices, they respond to chaotic events in imperial China including the Boxer Rebellion; after which, they move to Hawaii. But even that safe distance does not bring peace: Two decades later, a confession arrives in a letter, opening old wounds and shattering the family even further. A panoramic debut novel worth noticing.

Publishers Weekly
Wong’s earnest debut novel is a sweeping family saga in the tradition of Amy Tan. Told from multiple points of view and moving back and forth in time over several generations of the Leong family, the story centers on how people remain tied to one another. It opens in Honolulu in 1964 as friends and family gather for Bohai Leong’s funeral. Shocked by Bohai’s unexpected death, his wife, Amy, is still coming to terms with her teenage daughter Theresa’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Capable aunt Hong helps manage the day and watches over Bohai’s emotionally crippled mother, Lin. Most of the characters have secrets rooted in the family’s past in Guangdong, China, where Bohai was born in 1909 to a prosperous businessman, Frank, and his concubine, Hailee. After moving to the titular location (a volcano on the outskirts of Honolulu), wife Lin delivers the son, Kaipo, she had long vowed to give to her husband Frank. When Bohai grows into a virtual recluse, Lin decides to find a wife for him. This is where the tension finally ratchets up. Lin’s choice of the lower-class, strong-minded Amy sets in motion a chain of events, including murder, that threaten the Leongs’ stability. While some of the incidents are a bit predictable, Wong perceptively captures her cast of characters and their setting. Agent: Meredith Kaffel, DeFiore and Company. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Spanning the period from the turn of the 20th century to 1964, Wong's debut novel about three generations of Leong women will hook readers from the first page and not let go until the final tragic secret is revealed. This family's journey from China to Hawaii to become island royalty is told through alternating chapters by fully developed female protagonists who Wong brings to life by making the reader actually care about them. Running through this saga is the fable of the red string of fate that binds true love but can also become knotted and frayed, causing hurt and pain. Each woman—Lin, Amy, and Theresa—chooses her fate, either through her heart or her mind, and must pay the cost, sometimes losing all that is important in the long run. VERDICT By skillfully weaving a murder mystery into the story, Wong keeps the pace moving, and the twist ending is a surprise. The only disappointment is the abrupt conclusion that is wrapped up too neatly and quickly, leaving readers wanting more. Reading groups and fans of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club will enjoy exploring Chinese-Hawaiian history and culture with this lovely novel.—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD
Kirkus Review
The fate and fortunes of a Sino-Hawaiian family are altered by bad romantic choices.Wong's first novel begins as members of the Leong family, the wealthiest and most influential clan on the island of Oahu, converge for a funeral in 1964. From there, the story, related by various family members, branches out to cover six decades and three generations as the Leong family curse takes shape. In 1900, Hong, a widowed refugee from the Boxer Rebellion, treks miles to find refuge in the home of her brother-in-law, Frank Leong, a shipping magnate. The family migrates to Hawaii, and Leong builds a lavish mansion in the shadow of the volcano Diamond Head for his beloved wife, Lin, and their son, Bohai. Amy Chan, 20-year-old eldest daughter of an impoverished photographer and his harried wife, is working in her father's shop when Pearl Harbor and the advent of World War II improve the family's prospects. Soldiers are clamoring for photo portraits before being shipped out, and Henry, Amy's forgotten childhood sweetheart, is among them. The two become engaged, but all that changes when the Leongs hire the Chans to photograph their family. Lin seizes on the fetching Amy as the solution for her shy, studious son Bohai's confirmed bachelorhood. (He is now 33.) Amy's mother convinces her that marrying Henry would be a mistake: She herself had married for love and now lived in a basement with a feckless husband and Amy's nine siblings. After receiving an ambiguous letter from Henry, who is stationed overseas, Amy is persuaded to marry Bohai. Her decision triggers a series of disasters for the Leong family. The enigmatic Hong and Amy's daughter, Theresa, 18 and pregnant out of wedlock, act as bellwethers and interpreters of the family's downfall. The novel's many diversions and diffuse focus make for an unwieldy structure that cannot support the explosive closing revelations. Nevertheless, Wong's pellucid prose style keeps the pages turning. Although it reaches for an inevitability it doesn't achieve, a promising debut.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Cecily Wong’s work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, Self magazine, Bustle, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of Barnard College, and lives and writes in New York.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
Oahu, Hawaii
Barnard College

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Diamond Head 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
PenguinQueen More than 1 year ago
This story transported me to exotic and lush locations. The voices of the women as they reflected on the events of the past were vivid and audible to me. In some ways this is an excellent vacation book, but I could easily see it becoming a favorite of the book club circuit.
Anonymous 4 months ago
We need more authors like this. The story line and characters were superb .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the characters.. This is a story of women: mothers, daughters, grandmothers and their loves. Set in China and Hawaii, this is a saga of a family: the good, the bad, warts and all. The story shifts between characters and time - and this helps to keep the novel moving. Just excellent. The novel includes: mistakes in love, faithful love, surprising love, the red string that ties love, the loss of love ones, and more. This book deserves an A+++++
lifelongreader More than 1 year ago
Although I mainly read non-fiction, often supplemented by science fiction on relaxing vacations, as a fiction newbieI was surprised and captivated by Cecile Wong's beautiful, rich, artful and intriguing storytelling. Diamond Head is a thoughtful exploration of the place of "fated" love, responsibility, passion, loss, deceit, "truth" and hope in our lives, thru the eyes and stories of three generations of secret-keeping daughters and wives brought together by a funeral and bound, according to legend, by their intertwining "red string of fate." This new author's storytelling is powerful and addicting! Just like my favorite science fiction, I had trouble putting it down and am looking forward to her next storytelling masterpiece. Highly recommend as a personal and book club selection!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent... Just dropping by to Check if this Write a review option is working or not..
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Historical fiction mixed with a look at cultures and traditions - it was so good! Diamond Head is the story of the women of Frank Leong's life - from his wife to his daughter in law to his grandchild and beyond. The current storyline is taking place as they bury Bohai who is a father, son, husband and brother. The women take themselves back in time to tell the stories that brought all of them to this moment. I loved how each woman went back in time to tell her own story and how they interconnected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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