Finalist for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. The Wondrous Woo tells the story of Miramar Woo who is the quintessential Chinese girl: nice, quiet, and reserved. The eldest of the three Woo children, Miramar is ever the obedient sister and daughter . .. on the outside. On the inside, she's a kick-ass kung fu heroine with rock star flash, sassy attitude, and an insatiable appetite for adventure. Just as Miramar is about to venture forth on the real adventure of leaving home for university, her beloved father is killed in an accident. Miramar watches helplessly as her family unravels in the aftermath of her father's death. Her mother is on the brink of a recurring paranoia that involves phantom hands. Her younger siblings suddenly and mysteriously become savants, in possession of uncanny talents nicknamed The Gifts. As her siblings are swept up into the fantastic world of fame and fortune and her mother fights off madness, Miramar is left behind, feeling talentless and abandoned with no idea who she really is or who she wants to become. She gets herself to university on a bus with no family to see her off, no hugs, and no support. She is utterly on her own. In a story that spans four eventful years, Miramar ventures forth from the suburbs of Toronto to university in Ottawa and back again. Along the way she encounters people and situations light years apart from her sheltered world. She explores new friendships, lust, and a side of herself never seen before. Ultimately, Miramar discovers the meaning of courage, belonging, and family.
"What do you do when your father dies and leaves your siblings with super powers, but overlooks you? Leung deftly blends magic, Kung Fu and heartbreak in this endearing and unusual coming of age tale. I cringed and giggled and cried as I followed Miramar Woo in her struggle to grow up in the 'burbs, deal with her family and find her own extraordinary gifts. "
--Farzana Doctor, author of Stealing Nasreen and Seven
"Leung's novel is particularly engaging because she masters a kind of tragicomic tonality that leads to a reading experience generously peppered with narrative poignancy and quirky humor. The slightly offbeat storyline occasionally verges on the surreal, which gives the plot the occasional jolt: besides the Gifts of her siblings, her mother also must confront the occasional psychotic break, which alludes to a larger theme of madness that runs through the novel. Coming out of Inanna publications, this novel is clearly originating a publishing industry that fosters experimentation and innovation, reminiscent of the work of other Asian Canadian writers such as the recently reviewed Corinna Chong (recall the mother who studies crop circles). Certainly, a novel that takes its own spin on the model minority narrative and immigrant development. "
--Asian American Literature Fans
"Miramar's experience balancing her Chinese and Canadian cultures is what makes this novel a fantastic addition to Canadian literature. The stories fill an expanding literary field that addresses feelings of exclusion along with identity, which is a very real experience for many Canadians. For her first novel, Leung has packed so much into this book. It breaks the barriers of silence that surround mental health, cultural difference and does it in an entertaining way. The characters and images bring the book to life. I would absolutely recommend The Wondrous Woo, and am looking forward to what Leung will produce next!"
"The Wondrous Woo is the kind of tale that can bring out the super-hero in readers too. "
--Buried in Print