REVIEW: Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim

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JayneB- Reviews / Book ReviewsChinese-Canadian MCs / Contemporary / dysfunctional family / Magical Realism / matchmakers / older characters / POC / POC author / Toronto / toxic relationship / Womens-FictionNo Comments

Newly minted professional matchmaker Sophie Go has returned to Toronto, her hometown, after spending three years in Shanghai. Her job is made quite difficult, however, when she is revealed as a fraud—she never actually graduated from matchmaking school. In a competitive market like Toronto, no one wants to take a chance on an inexperienced and unaccredited matchmaker, and soon Sophie becomes an outcast.

In dire search of clients, Sophie stumbles upon a secret club within her condo complex: the Old Ducks, seven septuagenarian Chinese bachelors who never found love. Somehow, she convinces them to hire her, but her matchmaking skills are put to the test as she learns the depths of loneliness, heartbreak, and love by attempting to make the hardest matches of her life.

Dear Ms. Lim, 

I read the blurb. I debated. I finally decided to take a chance on this book and crossed my fingers that the septuagenarians wouldn’t be played for laughs. Hooray my prayers were answered. But Sophie’s parents … yeech. They cast such a pall on the plot that I wondered if it could ever be lifted. 

Sophie Go has known from an early age that she was destined to be a matchmaker. She can see the “red threads” people have that signal if they’re interested in a particular person as well as the knot that binds together those in love. Though the position is usually one of honor and prestige, Sophie’s parents (her toxic bitch of a mother in particular) opposed Sophie leaving a dull bank job to attend matchmaking school in Shanghai. But now that she’s home, Sophie screws up all her courage and moves out of her parents’ house into a nice condo building. 

However Sophie’s mom loudly denounces Sophie at the first glitzy gathering Sophie attends – the one that was supposed to cement Sophie’s place and gain her the clients she needs for Reasons. With rumors about her swirling through the Asian community of Toronto, Sophie pulls a desperation move on seven elderly men in her building. “If she can match them,” she imagines people saying, “she can match anyone.” But will it work and will it work in time?

There are two sides to this book: the fun and happy part of Sophie with her Old Ducks and the awful part that encompasses Sophie’s relationship with her mother and father. Let me just repeat (and I don’t use this word lightly) that mom is a toxic bitch. She’s hateful, demanding of, demeaning to, and humiliates Sophie while also bossing around her husband. She’s social climbing, grasping, greedy, and a general suck-up to people with whom she wants to get in good. Sophie’s dad goes along with her and her actions rather than making any fuss. Theirs is a sick relationship. Mom is also venal in that she expects Sophie to pony up money to support her mom’s lifestyle all while repeating how dutiful a Chinese daughter Sophie should be. Sophie remembers how her mother was belittled by her own mother for not having the social status and lifestyle of her more successful younger sister but no, there really is no excuse for Sophie’s mom and her dad is more pathetic than anything else. 

Now on to the good stuff. Though I wasn’t expecting the magical realism of the “red threads” and despite the fact that they’re mentioned fairly often, they didn’t bother me much. Sophie can see them but she relies more on her skills to make matches and just watches the threads to see if her matches are good ones. And she does have mad skillz. Plus honesty and care for her clients. I loved this as Sophie never does wild or weird matchmaking but puts time and effort into finding potential matches she thinks would work.  

I was afraid that the seven older men would be portrayed as jokes for a desperate Sophie to use to attain her goals and little else. Instead the men are all fully fleshed characters and, better still, easy to remember and keep apart. Sophie designates them by a secret code name (something that all matchmakers do to be sure to maintain client privacy) but we meet each one and along with Sophie get to know him. TBH, most of her matches are made fairly easily but the delight in watching them is how Sophie picks up on clues, pushes for her clients to be honest with her and themselves about what they really want, and the follow up care that she gives each one. 

I also enjoyed her relationship with her fellow matching making school friend who didn’t hold back on telling Sophie some home truths. The resolution of her relationship with her family took most of the book and a lot of support from her friends but she was the one who finally spoke up for herself. It was more an emotional snap for Sophie that I hope she follows up with some therapy to help her. I think that there would have been enough emotional depth in just watching the Old Ducks deal with their issues without the addition of the ghastly parents. Also though there is a romantic relationship for her – it’s small and a lesser part of the plot. I liked most of the book but, yeah, not the parents. B-       

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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