This book has everything going for it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wind up caring about the characters, and you’ll want to eat at the Golden Palace in Last Chance, Minnesota. Mysteries, history, and contemporary fiction are all part of this page-turner.
The main story is told by Maizy Chen, an 11-year-old from Los Angeles. At the beginning of summer break, Maizy’s single mom, a successful food stylist, declares that they’re driving to Minnesota because her father is ill. Maizy has only seen these grandparents once so everything this trip is … confusing for her.
Maizy starts out wondering how she will ever survive summer in this small, small town. Then she wonders how she will ever leave.
Along the way, we meet a cast of memorable characters like Lady Macbeth, a woman Maizie believes is rich and mean, Mayor Whitlock, who was once a respected journalist and wants to be again, and Werner Werner, a man who was once her grandfather’s best friend before they had a falling out.
During the summer in Last Chance, Maizy has an opportunity to know her grandparents, Oma and Opa, much better. From Opa, she learns a great deal about the Chinese immigrants’ experience in America, beginning with her great-great-grandfather Lucky Chen’s arrival in 1853. What a story he has!
I learned so many expertly woven-in facts about Chinese immigrants in America, thanks to Opa’s storytelling and Maizy’s subsequent research to find the “paper sons” who were helped along their way by the Chen family.
As author Lisa Yee writes in her Author’s Note, “As I was finishing the final chapters of Maizy’s story, hate crimes against Asian Americans were on the rise. I was torn apart and wondered, ‘What can I do?’ Then I told myself—keep writing.”
You’ll be glad she did. This is a book that offers understanding, opening our hearts and minds, all within a compelling story that will leave you yearning for more time with the Chen family and the residents of Last Chance, Minnesota.
Don’t overlook the Author’s Note and Bibliography. They’re valuable parts of this book.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
written by Lisa Yee
Random House Children’s Books, 2022
suggested for ages 8 and up