Gift From The Gods

Gift From The Gods novel by Suchen Christine Lim
ISBN 9971 49 222 9
Graham Brash, 1991, Singapore


Jacket Text:


Set in Malaysia and Singapore, Gift From The Gods, is an earthy novel dealing with the lives and values of three women from three generations of the same family: grandmother Tai-ku, adopted daughter Yoke-lin, and granddaughter Yenti. Having given birth to a “worthless” girl, Yoke-lin is thrown out of the marital home and forced to work as a dance hostess to support her daughter. Later, she becomes the mistress of a businessman who needs a son to claim his share of the family inheritance. To retain her hold on him, Yoke-lin seeks the help of the medium of the Eight Immortals.

The climax of the story of the story takes place on isolated Ping Shan, where Yoke-lin undergoes a rigorous ritual of seduction in order to conceive a coveted son and heir – her gift from the gods.




‘…Gift From The Gods intrigues. The situations will not surprise much, but the significance will certainly shock. Set in Malaysia and Singapore, in the post-war years and told in Pidgin English dialogue, the novel takes us deep into the world of Chinese ritual and surperstition in an age gone by. Yet it brings to the fore universal tensions as modern as modems – the strains between individual and society, between the freedoms of fantasy and the chains of folk belief and the fellowship of the clan.’

~  Koh Buck Song, The Straits Times, Singapore


‘…the story begins with an entry from Yenti’s Journal where she says that all she knows about her father is that he ran into the jungle to join the Communists. … What I find especially interesting is Lim’s description of the tenement cubicles – the living quarters of poor families – usually situated on the upper floors of Chinese shophouses. Those who could afford a higher rent stayed in cubicles with windows while the rest sweltered in windowless rooms. The very poor rented space under stairways and along corridors. Lim’s creative strength lies in her ability to re-create the tensions and even the humour that results from living in such close proximity…’

~  Carol Leon, The New Straits Times, Malaysia


‘Mother doesn’t talk about her past, that is, her real past. What she doesn’t want to remember doesn’t exist. If she knew I am writing about her roots and origins, she would be furious. Fortunately, since she cannot read English, the problem will never arise… The novel begins with Yoke-lin painfully giving birth to not a boy but a girl…Yoke-lin gives her daughter the Mandarin name Yenti because it means swallow, like a swallow flying high above sorrow. It is only when we come to page 50, Yenti’s Journal that we read the words quoted at the beginning and realize the novel is not by an omniscient author but by the daughter, living in a different time and place. Thus the story is mediated through a modern consciousness.’

~  Professor Peter Nazareth, University of Iowa, USA