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Read advance reader review of King of the Armadillos by Wendy Chin-Tanner, page 2 of 5

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King of the Armadillos

by Wendy Chin-Tanner

King of the Armadillos by Wendy Chin-Tanner X
King of the Armadillos by Wendy Chin-Tanner
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2023, 336 pages

    Sep 17, 2024, 336 pages


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There are currently 33 member reviews
for King of the Armadillos
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  • Carol F. (Lake Linden, MI)
    King of the Armadillos
    In many ways this is a story about more than leprosy. It is a story of family bonds and the rules that are unspoken. Being Chinese immigrants, the Chin family already have preconceived prejudices but now they must also face the stigma of having a child with leprosy.

    How this affects every member of the family is seamlessly woven into the book. While Victor's father worries that it will impact his laundry business, his brother Henry thinks telling the truth to their mother back in China would be a mistake and so Victor is forced to hide his condition.

    When Victor gets to Carville he realizes that "leprosy had turned him into someone who didn't even have power over himself" and so struggles with the treatments he feels are forced on him.

    A good book for discussion.
  • Sandy F. (Davis, CA)
    This book is exceptional - Don't miss it
    From the 1st to last page, King of the Armadillos entranced me. A key part of this book is the experience of living with and healing from Hansen's Disease - something I knew little about. Wendy Chin-Tanner introduced all the characters in interesting ways making me care about each one. The ribbons of the challenges of youth, being Chinese or Jewish, immigration, the different ways of loving, the impact of having money or not, and the magic of music are deftly intertwined. And Hansen's disease is clearly explained. I could not put this book down because I cared about these people. I hated to have it end, I hoped for a different ending yet - this ending is real. I truly enjoyed this book and will add this author to my favorite list.
  • Carrie D. (Freeport, ME)
    Page turner
    To me it seems like no small feat to write historical fiction that is interesting, informative, and engaging. The main character is Victor, a 15 year old Chinese immigrant living in New York in the 1950's. He has Hansen's Disease (leprosy) and is compelled (pretty much required) to live in a leprosy community in the deep south. We learn about separation from family and discrimination based on his disease as well as his ethnicity. The characters in this story are diverse and engaging. The story is fascinating. Wonderful book!
  • Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)
    Great story
    King of the Armadillos, by Wendy Chin-Tanner is an excellent story, well told, about a 15 year old boy, an immigrant from China, who develops lesions that are diagnosed as Leprosy in the 1950s. The story is based loosely on the author's father's experience with the same diagnosis.

    The writing is excellent; the story is interesting and believable. I appreciated learning more about the diagnosis and treatment of Hansens' Disease in the US. Additional complexity is added by the fact that the protagonist is Chinese and the Leprosarium is located in the Deep South. In that region, racial attitudes towards someone with deeper coloring than pale white is a problem during the '50s ... . one that can result in injury or death to those who are unaware, and/or not cautious.

    The author exhibits insight into teenagers' lives through descriptions of typical teenage hijinks and descriptions of agonizing, self conscious behavior. I loved this book, and recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction or coming of age stories.
  • Mary S. (Bow, NH)
    A must read
    King of the Armadillos should be on everyone's must-read list. Wendy Chin-Tanner style is reminiscent of Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett in that Chin-Tanner is an excellent storyteller and her command of language envelops you, so much so that I found myself frequently fully engrossed her world and paid no attention to what was happening around me.

    Like many of Anne Tyler's novels, King of the Armadillos moves seamlessly through the lives of a family, in this instance the Chin family. The main character, Victor, a Chinese American teenager, is diagnosed with Hansen's disease (formerly known as leprosy) and is sent from his home in the Bronx to the Carville treatment facility in Louisiana. While at Carville, Victor interacts with a host of interesting people, including several teenagers that he quickly befriends.

    Part of Victor's therapy for his fingers and hands is to learn to play the piano. This is where Chin-Tanner's writing prowess shines. Her description of the impact of music on Victor is stunning. I am not a musical person, but I think I glimpsed what musicians feel both physically and mentally when they are making music via Chin-Tanner's writing.

    I must admit I was a bit deflated by the ending. There is nothing wrong with what Chin-Tanner wrote, I just wished for a different outcome for Victor, his family, and friends. However, the ending in no way diminished how much I enjoyed the book. Everyone should put King of the Armadillos on their summer reading list.
  • Becky D. (Gloucester, VA)
    Who would have thought?
    This is a novel about a young boy (Victor) with Hanson's disease (leprosy), who's life actually improves (both physically, emotionally, and educationally ) once he begins receiving medical treatment at Carville (the government run hospital for people with this disease).
    The author's father had been a patient at one time, although I'm not sure to what extent (if any) the rest of the story is based on him.
    The family dynamics affecting Victor's experiences all play significant roles in his actions. The first started with his hard working, Chinese immigrant father (who had been sold in childhood so his biological family would not starve) who left his arranged marriage wife in China when he brought his two sons to New York. Then to the woman, Ruth,who became his father's mistress and a surrogate mother to the sons and helped get Victor's diagnosis confirmed and was instrumental in his going to Carville. Next was Henry, Victor's brother who always resented his father's relationship with Ruth and eventually Victor's desire to follow his heart and make a new life for himself. Lastly was the boys mother who remained in China with her mother-in-law . Her pull on the boys was a strong emotional one. It had Henry not wanting to tell her about Victor's illness (to keep her from worrying since she couldn't be there to help him) and Victor always feeling guilty for lying to her and denying there was anything wrong with him.
    In spite of all that, this book gives much encouragement with all of the healing, physical and emotional that Victor undergoes.
    The resolutions that the other characters work out to solve their dilemmas would make excellent fodder for book clubs.
    This is definitely a book not soon forgotten.
  • Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)
    Interesting and Absorbing Book
    The story is well-written, interesting and absorbing. I was intrigued by the characters while learning about the nature of Hansen's disease. This is an inspirational story that presents a hopeful and realistic portrayal of experiencing life while living with chronic disease. I highly recommend this book.

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