Allison returned to her college campus apartment to discover no electricity and her husband Cameron gone with his possessions. She also discovered he stole the money her grandfather had given her for her education. Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops details Allison Hong Merrill’s turbulent life as a young immigrant wife in America during the 1990s.
When I saw this book that combined Chinese culture and the Mormon Church I had to read it. I have long been interested in both histories and the author’s memoir highlighted the positives and negatives in each. While reading I experienced a myriad of emotions, especially when Merrill describes the conditions of her first marriage.
Merrill grew up in Taiwan, the product of an unhappy marriage. Eventually her parents divorced, separating her from her mother. The new stepmother heaped abuse upon her and her sisters. Merrill sought refuge with Mormon missionaries and converted, resulting in being disowned by her father. She met Cameron, a Mormon missionary, while in college in Taiwan and they married. Accompanying him to the US, she believed her dreams were coming true.
The author’s cherished dreams disintegrated into a nightmarish existence. Bullied by her husband, hounded by her father-in-law for her money, Allison tried to be a dutiful wife while struggling with English. As I read about her disastrous first marriage I kept wondering why her husband had married Allison, with his disdain so evident.
After being abandoned, Allison is forced to rely on support from a neighbor and the Mormon Church. Attempting to rebuild her life, she moved to Utah, got divorced, and threw herself into a new life. She believed in the social convention of her culture and religion that a woman needed a husband, and made more mistakes until shedding that philosophy.
Reading this memoir is an emotional roller coaster. The abuse the author suffered in her childhood and first marriage is appalling. Merrill relied on her faith to carry her through the hardships. Besides her story, I was fascinated by her grandfather, Ah-Gung. He was quite accomplished and gave her great advice to “find the right sand.” Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops is a mesmerizing read about a young woman’s adversities while navigating a new country and a new language.