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TLC Review: Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen

Title: Sunshine Nals

Author: Mai Nguyen
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 304 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)Canada

SummaryVietnamese refugees Debbie and Phil Tran have built a comfortable life for themselves in Toronto with their family nail salon. But when an ultra-glam chain salon opens across the street, their world is rocked.

Complicating matters further, their landlord has jacked up the rent and it seems only a matter of time before they lose their business and everything they’ve built. They enlist the help of their daughter, Jessica, who has just returned home after a messy breakup and a messier firing. Together with their son, Dustin, and niece, Thuy, they devise some good old-fashioned sabotage. Relationships are put to the test as the line between right and wrong gets blurred. Debbie and Phil must choose: do they keep their family intact or fight for their salon?

Sunshine Nails is a light-hearted, urgent fable of gentrification with a cast of memorable and complex characters who showcase the diversity of immigrant experiences and community resilience.

Review: The cover of this book put me in a certain mood as I opened the front cover and while it fit (light, fun), this novel is also so much more.

While there is a fun story of family, expectations, running your own business, the Vietnamese community, what it means to find your way in the world, etc there is also a darker look at gentrification and its impact on communities. What happens when "good" stores come into a neighborhood? Rents go up, certain businesses are pushed out for ones that are "more acceptable," and lives are changed and even ruined.

This novel shows the impact of gentrification and racism without hitting you over the head with it; it's part of the main characters' lives. Coincidentally, I saw a video of a comedian talking about gentrification the day after I finished this book and it solidified what the novel was talking about.

It would be easy to read this book just as a story of a family and their nail salon business, but you can also read much more if you choose to see it.

Challenges for which this counts: none

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