Roselle Lim’s New Novel A Delightful Tale About Family, Friendship & The Redemptive Power Of Love

The following is an excerpt from acclaimed author Roselle Lim’s new novel ‘Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club’, on sale August 16 from Berkley Paperback. Sophie Go returns to her hometown of Toronto after spending three years in Shanghai. She’s ready to begin a new chapter as a professional matchmaker, but her career is soon on the fritz as it is revealed she never actually graduated from matchmaking school. Having no experience or credentials, Sophie is outcasted from the competitive matchmaking market. Desperate for work, she discovers a secret club of seven Chinese bachelors who never found love, known as the Old Ducks. After convincing them to hire her, Sophie is faced with her own loneliness as she struggles to find love for this endearing group of men in their 70s, and finds the power of love along the way.

I wanted a parade: a procession of acrobatic chipmunks, dancing squirrels, and a bagpipe band of red pandas and ferrets, complete with oversize balloon animals hovering overhead and intermittent bursts of edible sour string confetti.

Instead, I settled for my pen’s succinct scratch across the contract of my first apartment lease, accompanied by the firm handshake of the property manager.

After exiting her office, I withdrew the translucent bag of sour gummy worms from my pocket and popped a yellow-and-green one in my mouth.

Loneliness was a disease. A matchmaker was its cure, salvation, and babysitter. I, a newly minted matchmaker, had returned home. My calling-my responsibility-was to tend to the romantic needs of this large city.

Toronto’s previous matchmaker, Madam Chieng, had presided for six decades. I’d had the pleasure of meeting with her a few times, and she came across as the perfect balance of force and finesse-depending on what the situation or match called for. She had encouraged me to go to Shanghai for schooling and anointed me as her eventual successor. With her passing three years ago, and my return, I claimed Toronto as my territory and filled the vacancy.

Large glass windows illuminated the small, round lobby of the Strawberry Fields condominium complex and the swirling blue mosaic marble floor. I was under the impression we were goldfish in a fishbowl left in the sunlight: jackets and coats swishing like fantails as our bulging eyes spied on fellow neighbors.

A Chinese woman with white permed hair styled in a rounded pyramid-shaped bob crisped at the edges approached me. This, paired with her large dark brown eyes, gave her the air of an inquisitive bichon frise. “Hello, are you the matchmaker who arrived from Shanghai?”

“Yes, I’m Sophie Go. Pleased to meet you.”

“I’m Mabel.” She called to another woman wearing a faux fur coat and an even puffier perm, hers dyed chocolate brown. “And this is my friend Flora.”

Flora smiled. “Are you taking on clients yet?” 

Immaterial spindly red threads, visible to a matchmaker, dangled unconnected from their hearts to their waists. The gauntness of their threads contrasted against a passing couple’s plump linked one. These women were starving for love. The thinness reflected the extent of one’s longing for romance, though not everyone wanted romantic love. So many full threads were left unmatched.

The first time I saw the red threads, I’d thought they were the most beautiful, ethereal sight. Now I overlooked their beauty for their information. The threads joining several couples together glowed in varying red shades with knots of differing size. Each knot indicated the kinds of turmoil or hardship the relationship had undergone. Every tone, every place in the color spectrum, expressed the relationship’s duration to the day. My fingers itched to unravel every tangle-from a tiny snag to a Gordian knot.

Ever since I was young, I wanted to connect people together. The instinct to solve puzzles came naturally, and matchmaking, by extension, was a giant game with rewards-love and happiness, and the power to affect lives for the better. My favorite fairy tale had always been Cinderella, as the Fairy Godmother was the most powerful figure. She was a matchmaker, and I wanted to be like her.

My reasons, however, weren’t wholly altruistic. Matchmaking was my permanent ticket away from my mother and into a life where loneliness wasn’t a constant companion. It meant freedom-physical, financial, and in every sense of the word. I’d waited for this moment since my gift emerged when I was six years old.

Loneliness was only a problem if you acknowledged it.

If I had a thread, I imagined it to be full and unattached; as thick as a herringbone braid. But that choice wasn’t mine to make. Madam Chieng told me during our first conversation that romance couldn’t be a part of our lives because we guided its course. 

“Not yet, but soon.” I reached into my pocket to fish out two business cards. “Please feel free to contact me.”

“Oh, we will. This is so exciting!” Mabel held my card with the care of a child clutching her new favorite toy. “Are you visiting here for a consultation?”

“No. I’ve just signed my lease. I’m living here now.”

The two women giggled and whispered to each other. Unlike unwanted amateur efforts from busybody relatives, a successful professional matchmaker commanded a seat of honor at any gathering with a client list spanning generations.

It was the joy and privilege for new matchmakers to establish their own individual client list by forging bonds in the community.

“Please feel free to tell your friends.” I handed them two more cards.

“Oh, we shall. Have a wonderful day.” Flora accepted the additional cards while Mabel waved goodbye. The pair walked away with brisk steps punctuated by excited chatter.

And so it began. Word of mouth always worked in a matchmaker’s favor. The integrity of my reputation relied on the tongues of others: testimonials, referrals, and even juicy gossip. I wanted to make lasting connections, exude reliability, and transcend my position: matching the unmatchable and even going as far as to fix the pesky knots of marriages. Madam Chieng was the best-I aspired to be even better. She had been so kind, and even though I had met with her fewer than a dozen times, I missed her. The last time was her funeral two weeks before I kept my word and left for Shanghai. Saying goodbye then was difficult, but I’d made a promise to her that I’d be a master matchmaker one day.

I pulled out my apartment keys. My new place was on the second floor, and most days I’d prefer the stairs, but no grandeur lay in taking that route today-not for my first entrance to my own place.

While waiting for the elevator, I noticed my presence had skewed the age range of the building down. Most of my fellow residents were past their prime-they moved like a snowy- or silver-haired human forest dotted with the occasional bald pates. Every once in a while, puffy, cloudlike perms hovering over smooth scalps arrived in clusters in the lobby.

I’d had an Audrey Hepburn-inspired pixie-cut and color done in Shanghai; a drastic change from the blunt shoulder-length bob I’d worn all my life. The Korean stylist assured me that it highlighted my high cheekbones and overall bone structure. She also insisted that short hair was conducive to my low-maintenance preference, that it would grow out beautifully, and that-if all else failed-a little bit of gel and a collection of headbands would be a great help.

The sharp ding of the elevator’s bell echoed in the lobby. I stepped inside and stabbed the Close Door button with my index finger. Fishing another sour gummy worm from my pocket, I slurped it as if it were a spaghetti noodle. Being the single occupant of the lift afforded me the privacy for a brief celebratory shimmy before the doors opened to the second floor.

When I had returned to Toronto a week ago, I came back to my old bedroom at my family home, but I no longer belonged there. I had lived on my own in Shanghai; it was possible to live without interference, judgment, or unwanted demands from my mother. Independence was the headiest drug, and I was hooked, but I was afraid that if I squeezed too tight that it would burst and disintegrate.

Having my own apartment had been a dream come true in Shanghai, but the true test was setting up shop here in the city and holding on to the independence I craved. This was the culmination of years of crying myself to sleep. I was free and I had my own space.

Freedom came in the form of playing the Beatles aloud instead of resorting to earphones, eating when and what I wanted instead of waiting for approval or permission, locking my own door instead of facing accusations of secrecy, and the luxury to answer only to myself for any decisions no matter how minute.

Apartment 2E was a short stroll away from the elevators.

I turned the key and opened the door to my place: twelve hundred square feet of heaven with two bedrooms, one bath, and a kitchenette. Three thousand dollars a month for rent, a bargain for the Greater Toronto Area. I had saved around twenty thousand from my three-year stint in Shanghai, which covered only six months of rent on this “bargain.” One hundred and eighty-three days. I would cherish each one.

The common area and the kitchenette’s hardwood floors gleamed from the afternoon sun shining through the large windows overlooking a busy intersection. It was an empty space brimming with possibilities. I had ordered my furniture ahead of time with the delivery for late afternoon and early evening: a microwave, a small fridge, a daybed, and a desk with a chair. Frugality was my interior design aesthetic.

A small basket of clementines sat on the counter with a red balloon tied to its handle. The card was from my property manager. I loosened the balloon from the basket and wrapped its string around my wrist. I walked to the windows with the red bubble trailing behind me on its ribbon leash.

This was all I needed.


My coat pocket, the one without the baggie of gummy worms, buzzed. I pulled my phone out and checked the screen.

My red balloon popped. 

It was my mother.

Excerpted from ‘Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club’ by Roselle Lim, printed with permission from the publisher, Berkley. Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.

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