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Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives collide in ways that have irreversible consequences for them all.


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Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives collide in ways that have irreversible consequences for them all.

30 review for The Expatriates

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Sometimes bad things happen to good people. In this compelling story, we meet 3 American expat women in Hong Kong whose lives entwine due to an incident. As cosmopolitan as the life may sound, it can be riddled with cultural and economic challenges, personal struggles and sometimes, tragedies. We meet Mercy, Margaret and Hilary. Mercy, a recent grad, is responsible for the incident that has left her with self destructive behaviours fulfilling the prophecy of bad luck following her. Margaret, mot Sometimes bad things happen to good people. In this compelling story, we meet 3 American expat women in Hong Kong whose lives entwine due to an incident. As cosmopolitan as the life may sound, it can be riddled with cultural and economic challenges, personal struggles and sometimes, tragedies. We meet Mercy, Margaret and Hilary. Mercy, a recent grad, is responsible for the incident that has left her with self destructive behaviours fulfilling the prophecy of bad luck following her. Margaret, mother of 3, is suffering because of that tragic occurrence and has been left feeling empty and helpless with a constant feeling of being smothered with anxiety that clings to her on a daily basis. And finally Hilary. Unable to bare children, this becomes the bane of her existence. All 3 struggle with their experiences and where they sit on the continuum of what is acceptable, what is normal, what defines them as women in this foreign culture that has become their life. This is raw with emotion and intimacy. It's about relationships and their complexities. It's about moving forward when you least want to. Lee brings a dimension to these flawed characters making them real. The writing is superb and she is well on her way to becoming a literary master. 5★

  2. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    4.5 stars The writing in this novel is the kind of writing that gave me the feeling I was there among this group of people , right there while they were interacting with one another, right there when the author describes what they think and feel and I thought many times that I might feel the same way under the same circumstances. I don't mean the descriptive kind that paints a picture in your mind of what the place looked like but rather gives you a sense of who these women are . There are the ex 4.5 stars The writing in this novel is the kind of writing that gave me the feeling I was there among this group of people , right there while they were interacting with one another, right there when the author describes what they think and feel and I thought many times that I might feel the same way under the same circumstances. I don't mean the descriptive kind that paints a picture in your mind of what the place looked like but rather gives you a sense of who these women are . There are the expatriates, and there is the group of the American expatriates of which the three women whose stories are focused on here , are a part of . It's a small community where everyone knows everyone or knows of everyone , or are connected in some way . As we are introduced to these three women, with alternating narratives in the third person, it's obvious that their paths will cross . It does in ways which are pretty realistic and pretty devastating. There's Mercy , single and alone , a twenty something Columbia graduate, who seems quite lost, unsure of herself and is almost living the self fulfilling prophecy of failure as predicted by the old Korean woman her mother sought to learn her future from . Then there is Margaret , wife and mother of three , who has come to define herself in those terms and then questions herself . There's Hilary, rich , not so happily married , who desperately wants to be a mother . It's a complex story in a way with so much going on here on several levels. There's the cultural differences , there's the class differences between some of the privileged people and their housekeepers and drivers. There are mothers and their children and how the children or inability to bear children define who these women are. It's about losses and realizations that the losses don't have to define who you are and that one might have the courage and ability to do that for yourself. It's about women with heart when you think they might not have the capacity. It's difficult to say more without giving details about the story so I'll leave it here and just say I highly recommended it . I do have to add just one thing - I loved the ending ! Thanks to Viking and NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I was slow to warm up to this book, at one point putting it aside. Coming back to it a few weeks later, I found myself in a much better place to appreciate what Lee has accomplished with this novel. Until now, the only expats I had read about were Hemingway and his hard drinking partying crew, but they were expats by choice. This book follows three women who lives connect and affect each other in different ways. Except for Mercy, the youngest, a Korean American who had attended Columbia who come I was slow to warm up to this book, at one point putting it aside. Coming back to it a few weeks later, I found myself in a much better place to appreciate what Lee has accomplished with this novel. Until now, the only expats I had read about were Hemingway and his hard drinking partying crew, but they were expats by choice. This book follows three women who lives connect and affect each other in different ways. Except for Mercy, the youngest, a Korean American who had attended Columbia who comes to Hong Kong timescale the pressure of failing to find a career path, Margaret and Hillary come because of their husband's jobs. They live in the American Zone, where others like them live, with little or no contact with the native people of Hong Kong, with the exception of their servants. Lee, does a great job of describing this life, the expectations, the unrealistic aspect of it, the feeling that real life had stopped. The loneliness and isolation this type of life can have. The three women, I neither liked nor disliked but it was their stories that make this book special. All are touched by an unexpected happening, something in their lives that causes grief, in Margaret's case a profound grief that is poignantly described. How they change in the face of these events is the main story. Each must make the decision to go on in whatever way they can. It is also a wonderful ode to mothers and their children. How big an impact a child can have on a mother's lives and what they will do for their children. This is a well written character study, a novel of quiet impact and a look into a way of life many of us will never experience. The ending, both happy and sad, maybe a little to pat but it seemed fitting after experiencing their stories. Sometimes, it is only the way forward that counts. ARC from publisher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Iris P

    The Expatriates "Doesn't every city contain some version of yourself that you can finally imagine?" Margaret, a character from The Expatriates *********************************************** *WARNING MY REVIEW CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS* I love it when an author uses a geographical setting as the focal point of a story and in Janice Y.K. Lee's elegant new novel, The Expatriates, Hong Kong certainly plays a major role. For the expat American community featured in this novel, the former Briti The Expatriates "Doesn't every city contain some version of yourself that you can finally imagine?" Margaret, a character from The Expatriates *********************************************** *WARNING MY REVIEW CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS* I love it when an author uses a geographical setting as the focal point of a story and in Janice Y.K. Lee's elegant new novel, The Expatriates, Hong Kong certainly plays a major role. For the expat American community featured in this novel, the former British colony has it all: a flourishing economy, a modern infrastructure, and a relative tolerant society, all set in a beautiful and exotic location. Hong Kong is a veritable multi-cultural society, an international community only possible in these times of multinational conglomerates and booming emerging markets. Since its reunification with China during the late 90's, Hong Kong has had a complicated relationship with the Chinese government, as one character on the novel puts it, "China's proximity and power is both celebrated and feared". This is an expat community full of overachievers, people that radiate success, affluence and wellness. Many of them have relocated to Hong Kong pursuing new career opportunities, at the same time most of them consider the place to serve only as a provisional home. Janice Y.K. Lee is really great at describing Hong Kong as a temporary haven for these newcomers. From the very first paragraph she introduces us to the atmosphere of this exuberant place: "The new expatriates arrive practically on the hour, every day of the week. They get off Cathay Pacific flights from New York, BA from London, Garuda from Jakarta, ANA from Tokyo, carrying briefcases, carrying Louis Vuitton handbags, carrying babies and bottles, carrying exhaustion and excitement and frustration…They are thrilled, they are homesick, they are scared, they are relieved to have arrived in Hong Kong—their new home for six months, a year, a three-year contract max, forever, nobody knows..They are Chinese, Irish, French, Korean, American-a veritable UN of fortune-seekers, willing sheep, life-changers, come to find their future selves..." Janice Y.K. Lee- The Author The expats can be categorized and sliced in several ways: * By Class : Which is highlighted by "The chasm between the servers and the served", the tensions between moneyed expats and the impoverished locals who serve them. * By how long they've been living in the Peninsula : There are new expats, intermediate expats and the "old Hong Kong hands, who had racked up to ten, twenty years in the colony." * By nationality , The Japanese are described as "a discreet group that rarely mingles", the French and Koreans are "a bit more porous"...and the English and Americans "after a few years of socializing strenuously with everybody, people tended to slip back into their national identities". Lee uses a nuanced approach to highlight the cultural differences between the expats and the local population, but I would have loved for the novel to go deeper into exploring the social and cultural dynamics of life in modern-day Hong Kong. Sunrise at Victoria Peak- Hong Kong The Expatriates follows the lives of Mercy, Margaret and Hilary all of whom have relocated from America to Hong Kong at different times and under very different circumstances, but they also face similar struggles trying to fit it into a society that uses cultural norms that are unfamiliar and at times feel outright regressive. Adjusting to life in a new country is inherently challenging, on a practical level one of the characters describes how "After moving, there was a new vocabulary to learn: “lifts” instead of “elevators,” “flats” instead of “apartments”—vestiges of the British colony Hong Kong used to be." There are of course more profound cultural and sociological adjustments to make, "Hong Kong is so small" is an aphorism we hear from the expats again and again, which might strike you as odd considering they live in a place populated by 7+million people. Whether is a conscious decision or not, inevitably these American find it easier to socialize with their own kind, this results in a "living in a fishbowl" lifestyle, a place where everyone knows everyone, privacy is a scarce commodity and secrets are hard to keep. The first of the three main characters is Margaret Reade, like many of the women that are part of this community, Margaret has put her career as a Landscaping Architect on hold in order to keep her family together. Margaret is poised, thoughtful and beautiful but one year into living her very privileged life in Hong Kong, she is shattered by a horrific experience, an event that has permanently changed her and her family life forever. The Hong Kong Botanical Garden Mercy Cho is a Korean-American from New York who, despite being born into a working-class immigrant family, has achieved a first-rate education. But Mercy is unable to break from what she describes is her "bad luck". As a graduate of Columbia, Mercy has had a glimpse into the life of privilege many of her former classmates are used to, but so far her Ivy League degree hasn't delivered in the way she had expected. Ultimately her decision to come to Hong Kong is in part a desire to break that negative streak and get away from her frustrated aspirations. At 28 Mercy is shockingly immature and seems to forever be on the verge of jumping into adulthood, but remains reluctant to do so. When Margaret hires Mercy to babysit her kids during a family trip to South Korea, Mercy's recklessness would be at least in part responsible for the loss of one of the Reade's kids and it would sink her deeper into the downward spiral her life has become. The third character is Hilary Star, a 38 year old who like Margaret is also married to a high executive, but Hilary's healthy background provides her a level of autonomy other women in the community don't enjoyed. Hilary's marriage is in trouble, which is in part due to the couple's inability to have a baby, their efforts to conceive have, if anything further weaken their relationship. By the time we meet her, Hilary is flirting with the idea of adopting a boy of mixed race from a local orphanage, something that David, her husband is not completely on board with. I so love that through these characters, Lee candidly acknowledges the challenges that comes with pregnancy and motherhood. Contemplating her transition into motherhood, Margaret observes: "This was the hardest thing she had ever done, and arguably the most important. And no one was acknowledging that it really, really sucked. A lot. This metamorphosis into that other being, that mother, was excruciating. She noticed that it got better in quarters. Three months, six months, nine months. And then suddenly she woke up and she felt better. She was not back to normal--that baseline had shifted. But she could cope with her life.." The lives of our three protagonists will overlap in unexpected ways and they'll find themselves entangled in a complicated web of lies and betrayal, but they'll also get a chance to forgive and start anew. These women have lived for the most part in a bubble, they have enjoyed vacations to Bali, excursions by junk boats and relaxing parties at their country club, but The Expatriates underlines the fact that a life of privilege and adversity are not mutually exclusive and that ironically having such a sheltered existence if anything, might make it harder to recover from personal loss and hardship. At the end, the stories of these women remind us how fragile life is and how our destinies can so radically changed in the blink of an eye. The Expatriates is a beautifully crafted novel that explores the themes of love and loss, as well as the impact motherhood has in defining the female identity. *********************************************** On a personal note, I want to thank my GR friend Robert Blumenthal for recommending this novel. Robert and I don't interact frequently but he was one of my first friends here in Goodreads and we share a remarkable similar taste in books, so when he takes the time to suggest a book I listened, thank you Robert!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    I loved the very beginning and the very end of The Expatriates. Sandwiched in the middle was much I liked too. Janice Y. K. Lee set her book amongst the expat American community in Hong Kong. The story focuses on the intertwined lives of three women, who are each experiencing very difficult times in their lives: Margaret who is a mother of three and recently experienced a heart wrenching event in her life, Mercy who is a young American of Korean descent who seems to have a knack for bad judgment I loved the very beginning and the very end of The Expatriates. Sandwiched in the middle was much I liked too. Janice Y. K. Lee set her book amongst the expat American community in Hong Kong. The story focuses on the intertwined lives of three women, who are each experiencing very difficult times in their lives: Margaret who is a mother of three and recently experienced a heart wrenching event in her life, Mercy who is a young American of Korean descent who seems to have a knack for bad judgment and bad decisions, and Hilary who is living the loneliness of a loveless childless marriage. They live through all this in the fishbowl of the expat community, which is tightly knit, skewed in its wealth and privilege, and vigilantly Informed about everyone's business. I don't feel that I can say much more about the plot without giving away any spoilers. In any event, what makes this book worth reading is not so much the story as the writing and the perspective Lee gives us on the expat life in Hong Kong. The book opens with a brilliant description of the swell of people who travel to Hong Kong. And it ends with an incredibly moving coming together of the three women at the centre of the book. At times the middle verged on being a bit soap opera like, but that feeling was redeemed by the richness Lee brought to the description of the main characters' perspectives and emotions. It's not a long book but I felt like I had to read it slowly to fully capture some of that richness. Well worth the read. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    Surprisingly good! I was afraid this story centering around 3 women living as American expatriates in Asia would devolve into a soap-opera'ish melodrama, but Lee managed to avoid that slippery slope in telling her tales. There is Mercy, an American-born Korean and Ivy League graduate whose every ill-advised move ends in disaster; Margaret, the wife of a multi-national company executive and mother of three who is trying to survive the unimaginable; and Hilary, an abandoned wife who is contemplati Surprisingly good! I was afraid this story centering around 3 women living as American expatriates in Asia would devolve into a soap-opera'ish melodrama, but Lee managed to avoid that slippery slope in telling her tales. There is Mercy, an American-born Korean and Ivy League graduate whose every ill-advised move ends in disaster; Margaret, the wife of a multi-national company executive and mother of three who is trying to survive the unimaginable; and Hilary, an abandoned wife who is contemplating adoption of a local boy as she tries to piece her life back together. The backdrop of these stories is Hong Kong, and Lee does a great job of drawing you into the culture and intricacies of the expatriate community there. Very perceptive, engaging and well-written. I had hoped for complete resolution of one of the stories (if you read this, you will know which one I mean at the end) but I think that Lee made the right choice in not taking the easy way out. I'm obsessed, for some reason, by books set in Hong Kong! I'm happy to add this to the list of one of the better ones.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    Thousands of miles away from home, in Hong Kong, a group of very different women find themselves in a world of women basically left on their own, at home, with a plethora of all that money can buy at their fingertips. Money can buy all the beautiful clothes you can veil yourself in, beautiful cars, drivers, large, gorgeous homes to decorate, inexpensive help to cook and clean for you, drive your children to all of their activities and watch them while you attend any number of activities, from tea Thousands of miles away from home, in Hong Kong, a group of very different women find themselves in a world of women basically left on their own, at home, with a plethora of all that money can buy at their fingertips. Money can buy all the beautiful clothes you can veil yourself in, beautiful cars, drivers, large, gorgeous homes to decorate, inexpensive help to cook and clean for you, drive your children to all of their activities and watch them while you attend any number of activities, from teas and luncheons to spa treatments. You live in a bubble in Hong Kong, in the expatriate section, where nothing of the native Hong Kong can reach you unless you want it to. We meet women whose lives will eventually touch each other in ways they couldn’t imagine and the men who share their lives. Many of the couples are here for a contracted time while their husbands work for global companies, lawyers, corporate executives, engineers, lured by the promise of a beautiful life and a large income. Some of the women left their own careers to follow their husbands. What the women didn’t expect to find is isolation, loneliness, depression, unfaithfulness and for one, the most extreme loss a woman can experience. Mercy is a recent graduate from Columbia. She found herself an outsider at school among the truly wealthy students who allowed her entry only into the periphery of their group. Mercy’s parents are struggling immigrants who run a Korean restaurant. They all worked incredibly hard for Mercy to be able to attend university. Yet she wasn’t able to land a decent job in the US and came to Hong Kong for a fresh start which has still eluded her. Margaret is a happily married mother of three who has done everything she can to adapt to life in Hong Kong. She’s attended all of the required dinners, hosted parties, etc while really trying to help her children adjust to the new situation. Things are going o.k. for Margaret until the unthinkable happens, her life is forever shattered. Hilary is a wealthy woman her own right, struggling with her marital situation. She has been unable to conceive a child which she thought might help her floundering marriage. Her husband has been pulling further and further away. The book is very well written with well researched history of the expat community and deep character development. The descriptions of Hong Kong and the neighboring countries with their beautiful beaches and Western resorts touch all of the senses. We can feel the extreme heat, the smells of the Asian cooking, the taste of the salt breeze on our tongues, etc. I enjoyed the book and found only the ending to be unbelievable. For all of the women to rally around Mercy after all the hurt that she has caused them is just too much to accept. But I would still recommend this book for it’s unique plot and characters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    Three American expat women find themselves in Hong Kong, coming from vary different backgrounds, living three different lives. In a slow-moving build-up, the three women connect, driven by different forms of loneliness and a terrible, heartbreaking loss. An inconceivable tragedy! Their lives are filled with endless parties, domestic helpers, shopping trips, lunches, tennis, children and more expats to fill up a frivolous, competitive, superficial existence in a high-density city. Expats become Three American expat women find themselves in Hong Kong, coming from vary different backgrounds, living three different lives. In a slow-moving build-up, the three women connect, driven by different forms of loneliness and a terrible, heartbreaking loss. An inconceivable tragedy! Their lives are filled with endless parties, domestic helpers, shopping trips, lunches, tennis, children and more expats to fill up a frivolous, competitive, superficial existence in a high-density city. Expats become like spoiled rich children, coddled and made to feel as if their every whim should be gratified There's always decorum to uphold. However, facing themselves in their mirrors alone is a totally different story. This book is all about the mysteries of motherhood and how they reconcile with it from their past, in their present, heading for their uncertain futures: . - the multi dimensions; - the physical, mental, spiritual building blocks; - the natural instinct as a driving force; - the role of mothers as earth angels. Three different relationships with money and men defines their destinies. Their losses change their attitude towards life, their relationships and their friendships forever. The social commentary describes a rigorous class system, an ignorant racism and an unforgiving social fanaticism in a multi-racial, culturally divided community. But finally a gentle kindness find a well-deserved place in this tough race called human survival of the fittest. Really an eye-opening read with a surprising, realistic conclusion under the circumstances. Definitely not chick-lit. I loved this tale. A good way of discovering a new city too. The characters were initially monotonous and hermetically distant with little frisson to alter the day-to-day survival. In an instinctive pursuit of an idealized life which proffer a gracious existence as a result, does not happen for Mercy, Hilary or Margaret. Although I did not bond or connect with any of the three characters, I still could relate to them on different levels and felt their emotional turmoil, heartbreak and struggles to find their feet. I was crying and cheering them on. I wanted them to win. The story is multidimensional and gripping. It is after the closing of the book that the impact is really felt and the hidden definition of motherhood is understood. PS. So by the way, the author's own life story is deeply embedded in this tale.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Three very different American women, (Mercy, Margaret, and Hilary), are all living in same expat community in Hong Kong. These characters are recognizable in that they are each struggling with fears, or grief, or a heartbreaking loss. They make choices that can't be reversed....the type of life consequences that either strengths their sense of self ...or haunts forever. The storytelling is tender, and beautiful...and very visual: "After a few hours by the pool, Margaret goes back to the room, whe Three very different American women, (Mercy, Margaret, and Hilary), are all living in same expat community in Hong Kong. These characters are recognizable in that they are each struggling with fears, or grief, or a heartbreaking loss. They make choices that can't be reversed....the type of life consequences that either strengths their sense of self ...or haunts forever. The storytelling is tender, and beautiful...and very visual: "After a few hours by the pool, Margaret goes back to the room, where Clark has booked her a massage in their private garden. There, amid frangipani and bougainvillea, and embarrassment of tropical lushness, a quiet, dark haired woman spends ninety minutes moving Margaret's muscles around, In an air temperature that miraculously seems to be the same as her own body's." "It is so indulgent and gorgeous the masseuse so docile, so servile (she won't even look at Margaret as she sent set the table), that Margaret spends the entire time---lying on soft terry cloth, her face looking down through the hole cut out of the table onto a thoughtfully placed bowl with a floating lotus flower---feeling absolutely awful." "Is it any wonder, she thinks, that expats become like spoiled rich children, coddled and made to feel as if their every whim should be gratified? These trips to the islands where the average annual wage is the cost of a pair of expensive Italian shoes cast the Western expatriate in the role of the ruler. The locals are the feudal servants, running to obey every whim." If you have ever wondered what it might be like - as an American - to move to Hong Kong for many years, ( other American's in the small community as you), be it married with children, married with no children, a single man or woman), this novel gives a great flavor to what it might be like. Ever wonder if you might just feel like you're on a long extended vacation? Or your life is on 'pause'? If you have ever said..."I'm ready to resume my real life"... this story can make you wonder just what does that mean. Can we ever turn back...and how does moving forward look any different from where we are in the moment? Atmospheric .... melancholy at times.....the story unfolds naturally until the ending comes together. A very subtle beauty of a story. The women especially blossom in your heart.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    I've been holding off on reviewing this one as I waited to find some eloquent way to describe my feeling that this book was so solid and had such a seemingly broad appeal that I'd not hesitate to recommend it to anyone: it's like that friend or colleague you can count on to do a task or a favor, when the task/favor is giving pure Good Read. I never did find a more eloquent way to say all this, but I decided it's probably enough to say that I think you're gonna like this book, and if you gave me I've been holding off on reviewing this one as I waited to find some eloquent way to describe my feeling that this book was so solid and had such a seemingly broad appeal that I'd not hesitate to recommend it to anyone: it's like that friend or colleague you can count on to do a task or a favor, when the task/favor is giving pure Good Read. I never did find a more eloquent way to say all this, but I decided it's probably enough to say that I think you're gonna like this book, and if you gave me your debit card and sent me to the airport book shop to pick you up an emergency read, with nothing more to go on but that you like literary fiction, I'd feel safe buying you this book. Even if you didn't like it, we'd still be friends, you'd see where I was coming from with the selection, that it was someplace sensible, and you wouldn't demand a refund. I'm not trying to damn the book with faint praise by calling it competent, generally enjoyable, and inoffensive. The author is skilled and sure and writes a relatable story of three women at different ages and stages in their life, from quarterlife to midlife crisis, all dealing with transition and identity issues related to life milestone areas including motherhood, employment, family, and love and marriage, and all set in the familiar/unfamiliar, insider-outsider world of the Hong Kong English-speaking expatriate community. A jacket copy review compared the book to Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, and I think with respect to the shared sensitive portrayal of intergenerational expatriate identity crisis, this is apt. Another jacket review compared this to Sex and the City meets Henry James: as to the eloquent, elegant psychological portrayal and the subtle humor (yes there is) of Henry James I completely concur, but the SATC comparison is downright criminal! No offense to SATC, but this book is not that. This book is eminently respectable and enjoyable, and for something so NOT heavy-handed (and in the hands of a lesser writer, it could have been!) contains unexpectedly powerfully moving sections - for you it may be something different, but for me it was the powerful meditation on mother/daughter connection that came in at the end. The characters are screwed up enough to be interesting but not so much as to become unrelatable or unlikeable or melodramatic. Coming off several disappointing and poorly edited (too long) reads, I miss the ease of reading this book and the way it insinuated itself into my consciousness and surprised me with its goodness and stuck with me after I'd finished it. I'd savor an opportunity to have this reading experience again after the recent duds I've endured! I so appreciated AND enjoyed this book in such perfect proportion and to such a degree that THIS, rather than any mediocrity, is why I'm ineloquently recommending it as a safe bet should you need an enjoyable, admirable, immersive book for self or other.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    "The Expatriates" revolves around the lives of three women who have moved from the United States to Hong Kong. Their lives have become intertwined due to several traumatic events. In the end, these shattered women support each other as they share the bond of love for their children. The novel is about loss, grief, forgiveness, marriage, motherhood, and the challenges that women face. The exotic setting of Hong Kong, and a look into the life of an expat added extra interest to the story. "The Expatriates" revolves around the lives of three women who have moved from the United States to Hong Kong. Their lives have become intertwined due to several traumatic events. In the end, these shattered women support each other as they share the bond of love for their children. The novel is about loss, grief, forgiveness, marriage, motherhood, and the challenges that women face. The exotic setting of Hong Kong, and a look into the life of an expat added extra interest to the story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    "I look like someone you might be friends with, but I’m not. There’s a hole inside me, and I can’t fill it with other people, although I wish I could." Three women, all in a different phase of their life and in dissimilar life situations, are experiencing the expatriate life in Hong Kong. The youngest is Mercy, an American born Korean and Columbia graduate, who is single, unemployed and still trying to find her way around. Hilary and Margaret are both married, the former childless and trying "I look like someone you might be friends with, but I’m not. There’s a hole inside me, and I can’t fill it with other people, although I wish I could." Three women, all in a different phase of their life and in dissimilar life situations, are experiencing the expatriate life in Hong Kong. The youngest is Mercy, an American born Korean and Columbia graduate, who is single, unemployed and still trying to find her way around. Hilary and Margaret are both married, the former childless and trying to conceive, the latter settled with kids. "...you are riding a fast horse with no saddle. The rider will fall.” He hesitated. “And here it says, a crow cannot soar like an eagle.” It was a compelling read, following all three through their own disappointments and tragedy, their lives intersecting at regular intervals. What was most interesting though, is the descriptive view on expat life. The ending came as a surprise, although in hindsight, I should've seen it coming. Bit melodramatic, but fitting anyways. Hadn't heard of her before, this was my first book by Janice Y.K. Lee and am looking forward to read her debut novel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    A satisfying and incisive novel that frames the lives of three very different American women and the disjointed lives they come to lead after they move to Hong Kong. Margaret came with her children and corporate husband; Hildy joined hers, a lawyer and they both now live a life of ease. A car and driver, a housemaid, a cook, private schools for their children, nannies, tennis, lunch dates and vacations to Phuket. Mercy is single, younger and of Korean heritage whose intention to succeed like her A satisfying and incisive novel that frames the lives of three very different American women and the disjointed lives they come to lead after they move to Hong Kong. Margaret came with her children and corporate husband; Hildy joined hers, a lawyer and they both now live a life of ease. A car and driver, a housemaid, a cook, private schools for their children, nannies, tennis, lunch dates and vacations to Phuket. Mercy is single, younger and of Korean heritage whose intention to succeed like her fellow affluent Columbia university graduates has flopped, without any of those connections. An invitation from a wealthy Chinese college friend who has stayed in touch leads Mercy to Hong Kong, where, as the expatriates say, Hong Kong is a very small city - and Mercy is irrevocably linked to both Margaret and Hildy. The sense of putting down roots, yet not attaching deeply to the home site that they have moved to is keenly evoked. North Americans who have been moved from one end of their country to due to fluctuating markets, industry and need for commodities, or in Canada the RCMP (Royal Mounted Police, the federal policing department) understand that they too are similar to expatriates, dipping into the community for an unspecified term. The need for personal connection and the means to find it are not necessarily easy, in moves where language, culture and values can be very different. The novel explores the yearning of these expatriates, mirrored in the cast of characters in general, for a sense of belonging. How do you begin, under such artificial circumstances? Should you? What will bind you? How will you know one another? Should you dare risk in light of the ruining the beautiful facade needed to survive the expatriate gossips? The Expatriates is a rich story, with a complex and emotional plot. "This is what she has learned in the past year: You go through the motions of life until, slowly, they start to resemble a life." It concludes hopefully... life is still life, after all. I enjoyed it. Recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The setting of this book is Hong Kong, the characters a trio of American women who are part of its expatriate community. Each woman is dysfunctional in her way, bogged down by elements of loss, confusion, paralysis, or grief. Their individual stories are interesting, as is what happens when their paths cross. But I never felt close to any of the three, and the neatness of the ending still unsettles me. I bought this book based on rave reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, People The setting of this book is Hong Kong, the characters a trio of American women who are part of its expatriate community. Each woman is dysfunctional in her way, bogged down by elements of loss, confusion, paralysis, or grief. Their individual stories are interesting, as is what happens when their paths cross. But I never felt close to any of the three, and the neatness of the ending still unsettles me. I bought this book based on rave reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, People, Publishers Weekly, not to mention a slew of 5-star online reviews, so my expectations were high. Oh, the writing is gorgeous. If you’re an armchair traveler who likes experiencing foreign places in exquisite detail, this book is for you. The author knows her Hong Kong and paints it well. She also knows the life of the “trailing wife,” who follows her husband to a foreign country, and she knows the social scene there. If reading about this kind of thing interests you, go for it. Me, I’m a plot-lover, and this plot just didn’t work for me. The author does go into the minds of these three women with skill and depth. But I could never quite warm to the youngest, Mercy, who makes one bad decision after another. Hilary struck me as being shallow. And I could feel Margaret’s pain, as any mother would, though I never fully understood her. I never fully understood any of them – not to mention that I‘m still haunted by the child named G. Does he not have a full name? Or is the medium the message? I may have missed whatever it was that others saw and loved in this book. It could be that if my book group discusses this, I’ll see more in it than I have so far. I enjoyed parts of it, but only parts. The rest left me feeling chilled.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Three American women grapple with motherhood and identity in Hong Kong’s expatriate community. Margaret and Mercy are linked by their Korean heritage and a family tragedy. I found them both to be very sympathetic characters, while Hilary is simply not as interesting. The last quarter of the book is particularly strong, as you wonder just how the connections between these three will pan out. The novel reminded me most of Jung Yun’s Shelter, which also contrasts Asian and American values and (3.5) Three American women grapple with motherhood and identity in Hong Kong’s expatriate community. Margaret and Mercy are linked by their Korean heritage and a family tragedy. I found them both to be very sympathetic characters, while Hilary is simply not as interesting. The last quarter of the book is particularly strong, as you wonder just how the connections between these three will pan out. The novel reminded me most of Jung Yun’s Shelter, which also contrasts Asian and American values and has a similarly beautiful ending.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Janice Y. K. Lee is a wonderful storyteller. She gets into the heads of her protagonists, three very different women who have found themselves living in Hong Kong and find their lives entwined. Mercy, a young Korean American Columbia graduate, who never feels as if she quite fits in and that she is a harbinger of bad luck, came hoping such a radical change would improve her life. Hilary and Margaret are what is known as "trailing spouses," wives of men whose careers have relocated them to Hong K Janice Y. K. Lee is a wonderful storyteller. She gets into the heads of her protagonists, three very different women who have found themselves living in Hong Kong and find their lives entwined. Mercy, a young Korean American Columbia graduate, who never feels as if she quite fits in and that she is a harbinger of bad luck, came hoping such a radical change would improve her life. Hilary and Margaret are what is known as "trailing spouses," wives of men whose careers have relocated them to Hong Kong usually for three-year tours. There is an excitement to their lives, but it seems as if they are in a holding pattern, waiting until they return to "real life" back in, say, Ohio. Ms. Lee knows of what she speaks -- she was a trailing spouse, with 2 children when she and her husband were there, giving birth to twins in Hong Kong. But even with the demands of family and social obligations, she says she has more time on hands since it is more common to have household help than in the States. It was during her time there that she was inspired to write this book, which has been compared to the work of Henry James. It was a fast read, quite a page turner in places, and thoroughly enjoyable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marina Sofia

    Wry, witty, sometimes acerbic observations of expat life, interactions between expats and locals, between the different 'types' of expats. The setting and the lifestyle were described to perfection. However, the stories of the three women themselves seemed a tad melodramatic or soap opera-ish, their development as characters unconvincing, while that sentimental ending of idealising motherhood as the solution to all problems... I think the whole expat/trailing spouse, lack of identity, re-entry p Wry, witty, sometimes acerbic observations of expat life, interactions between expats and locals, between the different 'types' of expats. The setting and the lifestyle were described to perfection. However, the stories of the three women themselves seemed a tad melodramatic or soap opera-ish, their development as characters unconvincing, while that sentimental ending of idealising motherhood as the solution to all problems... I think the whole expat/trailing spouse, lack of identity, re-entry problems etc. are far more complex than just reducing them to motherhood or career. There were a couple of intriguing secondary characters (Olivia or Frannie) that I would have liked to hear more about.

  18. 5 out of 5

    MaryannC. Book Freak

    This was a tremendous read! This was my second novel by Janice Y.K. Lee and like her first, this one did not disappoint. The Expatriates settles around the lives of three women, Mercy, Margaret and Hilary, all who live or cross paths within an exclusive expat society in Hong Kong. Each woman's story was fascinating and well paced. I was totally engrossed with the details of expat life in another country and this was oftentimes hard to put down! Recommended. This was a tremendous read! This was my second novel by Janice Y.K. Lee and like her first, this one did not disappoint. The Expatriates settles around the lives of three women, Mercy, Margaret and Hilary, all who live or cross paths within an exclusive expat society in Hong Kong. Each woman's story was fascinating and well paced. I was totally engrossed with the details of expat life in another country and this was oftentimes hard to put down! Recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Cosin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Soap operaish story with glimpses of insight and empathy about three 20-30ish women in the expat community of Hong Kong. I was engaged at first, but the book didn't hold its own. The book provides a clear picture of life for Americans living in Hong Kong. It superficially addresses race and class issues; it has a pat, bad-movie ending. Spoiler: Short version of the characters - one woman loses a child, one woman loses a husband, and one woman is a loser. Kind NYT book review: http://www.nytimes.co Soap operaish story with glimpses of insight and empathy about three 20-30ish women in the expat community of Hong Kong. I was engaged at first, but the book didn't hold its own. The book provides a clear picture of life for Americans living in Hong Kong. It superficially addresses race and class issues; it has a pat, bad-movie ending. Spoiler: Short version of the characters - one woman loses a child, one woman loses a husband, and one woman is a loser. Kind NYT book review: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/boo...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julian Lees

    I really enjoyed THE EXPATRIATES. Given that I was born and raised in Hong Kong I was interested to see how accurately Janice Lee depicted HK. She got it spot on.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Billie

    I liked it okay, but didn't find any of the three main characters particularly likable. I might have liked Margaret okay if she had worked through the aftermath of tragedy with her family rather than completely withdrawing from them and pretending she was the only one who was suffering. Or if she had taken even a sliver of responsibility for the tragedy on to herself, rather than piling all the blame on someone else. Maybe this is really the way in which a person would react to such an event, bu I liked it okay, but didn't find any of the three main characters particularly likable. I might have liked Margaret okay if she had worked through the aftermath of tragedy with her family rather than completely withdrawing from them and pretending she was the only one who was suffering. Or if she had taken even a sliver of responsibility for the tragedy on to herself, rather than piling all the blame on someone else. Maybe this is really the way in which a person would react to such an event, but it made Margaret hard to like. In fact, none of these women took responsibility for the various tragedies and disappointments in their lives or really did much to move past the various bad things that happened or were done to them. Well, they did at the end, but that ending felt like a bit of an author panic--the "Oh, damn! My characters need to have arcs. I need them to change and I only have 60 pages in which to do it!" moment. It wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't for me. Your mom and her book club are going to love it, though.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kalen

    I'm giving this one 5 stars. I can't put my finger on what grabbed me so much about this book but it may be that the characters were so well-developed and so believable. I don't typically like stories about motherhood but this one went well beyond that theme. I'll be thinking about it for a while and maybe will come back and write more when I've had a chance to think it through. (I am a page/percentage counter--not this time. I was on a plane and often get restless with whatever I'm reading and I'm giving this one 5 stars. I can't put my finger on what grabbed me so much about this book but it may be that the characters were so well-developed and so believable. I don't typically like stories about motherhood but this one went well beyond that theme. I'll be thinking about it for a while and maybe will come back and write more when I've had a chance to think it through. (I am a page/percentage counter--not this time. I was on a plane and often get restless with whatever I'm reading and end up falling asleep. Not this time. This is a page-turner.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nnenna

    I've always wondered what it would be like to live abroad and this latest novel from Janice Y. K. Lee gave me a peek into the expat life. The story centers around three women: Mercy, a twenty-something struggling to find her purpose in life, Margaret, a mother of three who has a handsome husband and an envy-inducing life, and Hilary, who is desperate to become a mother herself. Lee weaves these lives together as each woman explores her own identity. I found the setting and descriptions of expat c I've always wondered what it would be like to live abroad and this latest novel from Janice Y. K. Lee gave me a peek into the expat life. The story centers around three women: Mercy, a twenty-something struggling to find her purpose in life, Margaret, a mother of three who has a handsome husband and an envy-inducing life, and Hilary, who is desperate to become a mother herself. Lee weaves these lives together as each woman explores her own identity. I found the setting and descriptions of expat culture fascinating. Lee focuses on American expats who are stationed in Hong Kong for a year, or three, or ten. The expatriates stay within their own community, and interaction with locals is often characterized by a clash of cultures. Within the expat community, there are different cliques based on wealth, or common interests. This is a quiet, beautiful written novel. Through her choice of words, Lee is able to convey so much about a character's personality. Each of the three women is a distinct entity, with their own quirks, insecurities, mannerisms and principles. Each woman also has a significant hurdle to overcome: Margaret must deal with a terrible loss, Mercy tries to recover from a traumatic event, and Hilary constantly feels the absence of a child. As these three women try to reform their lives, Lee takes the reader along for the journey. If you have an interest in experience other cultures and enjoy character studies of women, I'd highly recommend The Expatriates.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    In less capable hands, it might have ended up as a Lifetime movie. However this author is amazingly adept at describing insights into what it is like to live abroad, class struggles, insecurities and desires of women at different phases of their lives. I was immediately interested in each character's story and the plot didn't turn out the way I had imagined. But, what really made the book for me was the ending. Thank God! I don't understand the mean, jealous and competitive nature of some women. In less capable hands, it might have ended up as a Lifetime movie. However this author is amazingly adept at describing insights into what it is like to live abroad, class struggles, insecurities and desires of women at different phases of their lives. I was immediately interested in each character's story and the plot didn't turn out the way I had imagined. But, what really made the book for me was the ending. Thank God! I don't understand the mean, jealous and competitive nature of some women. It's SO wrong. The quote "I hope we all make it!" is my anthem. I deliberated for a few days on how I could write an adequate review illustrating the intense pull this book had on me. And, it was an intense experience! I'll give it my best shot. What I liked: The best thing about this book is the writing. The author clearly lays out the character's thoughts in a way that makes you identify with some aspect of that life experience. For example, on living alone: "It is important to do things right. Otherwise, when you live alone, it can delve very quickly. Stand on ceremony. Observe the rites. That's how you get through the day." On becoming a mother: "This was the hardest thing she had ever done, and arguably the most important. And no one was acknowledging that it really, really sucked. A lot. This metamorphosis into that other being, that mother, was excruciating. She noticed it got better in quarters. Three months, six months, nine months. And then suddenly she woke up and she felt better. She was not back to normal--that baseline had shifted. But she could cope with her life." The lure of online forums: "The etiquette of the online forum has to be learned through weeks, probably months, of lurking. Also, the tone. ... People were very extreme, punctuating their sentences with exclamation points and bobbing yellow smiley faces that winked or stuck out their tongue. It was like on Facebook, ... and whenever someone posts a photo of themselves, all their friends post profuse compliments, say utterly ordinary women are 'gorgeous!!!!' or 'stunning!' On the flip side, people become enraged easily and insult one another with a vehemence that would never exist in a face-to-face encounter. There are dozens of posts where people try to explain why they are right and the other is wrong. ... she wonders at the futility and hopefulness of these people, that they actually think they can change someone else's mind, that others will acknowledge their correctness. They must be young. She was that way too when she was young. If only it is explained enough, they think, surely everyone will understand, everyone will come around to their way of thinking. It is exhausting, being so hopeful. She remembers." The three main characters - Mercy, Margaret & Hillary - are all interesting. Mercy is a single, recent college graduate from an Ivy League school who left New York to live & work in Hong Kong. Margaret is a young mother of 3 children who has recently moved to Hong Kong to follow her husband's career. Hillary is a married woman who has been living in Hong Kong for some time with her husband and they are drifting apart after encountering difficulties in conceiving a child. I loved the descriptions of life as an expatriate as well. Hong Kong almost becomes a fourth character. "After moving, there was a new vocabulary to learn: 'lifts' instead of 'elevators,' 'flats' instead of 'apartments' -- vestiges of the British colony Hong Kong used to be. Also, instead of a housekeeper, the province of only the rich in America, everyone in her new world had a live-in domestic helper from the Philippines or Indonesia, who took care of all the housework and babysitting for the astounding sum of US$500 a month. They live in a particularly homogeneous enclave of expatdom, Repulse Bay, where half the people they see are white, and more that that are not locals, be they Chinese American or Japanese or Filipino. In this particular corner of Hong Kong, newly arrived Americans bump into one another at the supermarket and talk of their sea containers, arriving soon with their belongings, how to find a travel agent, how to get a driver's license. The husbands get up in the morning, put on their suits, and take taxi-shares or minibuses or are driven to work in the tall, shiny office buildings in Central, while the women putter around the house before getting ready for their tennis match or going in to volunteer at the library, since they mostly had to give up their jobs when they moved. It feels a bit like 'The Truman Show.'" Each main character encounters a life altering experience. How they change and move on is at times mystifying, heart-wrenching and yet ultimately understandable. Was I propelled through this book because I lived overseas as a child for 3 and a half years? We had a live-in housekeeper, Sarah, who could never remember my brother's name. She always called him "Dennis" instead of "Daniel." Did I experience a connection to one of the characters because I have biracial family members? I have family working for the State Department. Did that similarity fuel my interest? Was it the simple fact that I am a parent? I don't think so, but these connections certainly didn't detract either. I think the writer is gifted. I am a fan. 5* - Couldn't put it down.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Anderson

    I enjoyed the details of ex-pat living a bit more than the tangled personal stories, but all in all it was a satisfying read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    Have you ever seen the Global Rich List calculator on the CARE website? http://www.globalrichlist.net/ It lets you input your salary, and then shows you how that measures up globally. Even if you are paid modestly (ie, averagely) by UK standards, you will still discover that you are better off than 99% of the rest of the world. And what does this have to do with The Expatriates? In my opinion, quite a lot. The Expatriates is about three American women who are living in Hong Kong. Margaret and Hil Have you ever seen the Global Rich List calculator on the CARE website? http://www.globalrichlist.net/ It lets you input your salary, and then shows you how that measures up globally. Even if you are paid modestly (ie, averagely) by UK standards, you will still discover that you are better off than 99% of the rest of the world. And what does this have to do with The Expatriates? In my opinion, quite a lot. The Expatriates is about three American women who are living in Hong Kong. Margaret and Hilary are middle-aged, well-heeled spouses who know each other vaguely from their childhoods in the Bay area of San Francisco. Mercy is in her mid-20s; a second-generation Korean from Queens who went to Columbia and managed to hook up with a wealthy international crowd. All three women will be connected - first through the commonality of being expatriates in Hong Kong, and then more profoundly through motherhood and an accidental tragedy that links all of their lives. In one regard, the experience of these three women confirms that wealth and privilege cannot protect a person from human tragedies, both epic and mundane. It also points out that certain human 'tragedies' - infidelity and divorce, for instance - are even more likely to happen in the bubble of expat life. But does the emotional suffering of the world's wealthy have the exact same weight as the suffering of the world's poor? And how much of it is self-induced, anyway, by that oppressive combination of boredom and a surfeit of everything? Is it harder to pity the sufferings of a rich person? And how much of a rich person's 'sufferings' are actually derived from being really terribly spoiled? I feel that these questions, spiky and vexed, underlie everything that happens in this novel. I've been an expatriate spouse in a third-world country - not Hong Kong, to be sure - but the experience of being an expat spouse is pretty much the same everywhere. While it would be churlish (arguably even despicable) to complain too much about living in a nice house, with local 'help' to take care of every need, there is something about the experience which makes a spouse feel superfluous - and quite detached from life. Some spouses learn to wallow in the luxury, and squander their time in various pleasurable and idle activities - mostly to do with socialising. Others throw themselves into charity work or travel or even some kind of job within the community, and their conscience grates all the time - even as they are enjoying themselves. But what you cannot ever separate yourself from is the knowledge (whether you consciously confront it or not) that you are extraordinary privileged compared to the local people. There is this underlying presumption, always, that your needs will be met - and that they will come first. Author Janice Y.K. Lee nails the experience of being an expat wife, and maybe that is what I found so discomfiting about this novel. I didn't really like being an expat wife, and there is something that I deeply disliked in this novel. There is something brittle and unlikable about the whole scene. It's not that I think that Lee distorts the magnifying lens she looks through, but the edges of it are very sharp. Maybe it has something to do with tone. The character of Mercy - who is unlikable and pitiable in pretty equal parts - learns a certain way of talking and seeing the world while at Columbia. She is ironic, arch, sophisticated - but there is also something cruel and ungenerous about the way she sees and evaluates the world. I felt the same about Lee's larger authorial vision. I couldn't argue with its truthfulness, and yet I couldn't enjoy it, either. It's a fast-paced, engaging read - but as with many contemporary novels - I just felt it lacked depth and sincere human feeling.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I am dumbfounded as to how to review this book properly. I simply can't. It doesn't matter if the writing is good, or the story is engaging. Some things are too hard to bear for some people. This was one of those books that made me shiver with the presence of my worst waking nightmare. At the center of the novel, set in Hong Kong and Seoul, Korea, are three women, each American expatriates, two of varying Korean descent. There is a tragedy involving a child, and that loss deafens for me any othe I am dumbfounded as to how to review this book properly. I simply can't. It doesn't matter if the writing is good, or the story is engaging. Some things are too hard to bear for some people. This was one of those books that made me shiver with the presence of my worst waking nightmare. At the center of the novel, set in Hong Kong and Seoul, Korea, are three women, each American expatriates, two of varying Korean descent. There is a tragedy involving a child, and that loss deafens for me any other possibilities of experiencing this book. Margaret's pain, and the pain of five others in the book is unspeakable. This is the way I felt after seeing the movie Lion. The women are eventually and interestingly intertwined, and there are absolutely beautiful and even uplifting moments. But for me, its one of those experiences that had me up the entire night, just to finish the damn thing and get it out of my consciousness completely, all the while, kissing my little 7.5 year old boy over and over while he slept between us. This is one of those books that have you begging to hold your children close and never letting go. I prayed to God in the wee hours of the morning, so eternally thankful. If you want to put yourself through that experience, I'm sure the book was good. I couldn't tell. Not for mothers (and fathers) I think. The book is on the carousel now in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, in a gorgeous Vidanta resort. Or it will be by the time I get down to the pool. Now starting Destiny by Design: Leah's Story, by Mirta Trupp. This is a personal giveaway from the author, and I'm excited to read it. That too will end up in the Carousel, lessening my return load by two books, and hopefully creating more exposure and buzz for Mirta's book. After that, I will be reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (to finish it before February 28th), and the Hate U Give, to finish it by March 2nd. I also have with me White Houses. Those three or four should tide me over for the rest of the trip, I think.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    It is not often that I take the time to actually write a review of a book. I frankly think that writing the review is taking time away from reading more books. But I loved this book SO much that I feel like I really have to take a moment to extoll it's virtues. First: Janice is a beautiful writer. Her words are perfectly chosen, evocative, and never overwrought. It is a modern novel-very different from The Piano Teacher but equally brilliant. Second: It's a story about Hong Kong expat women. I re It is not often that I take the time to actually write a review of a book. I frankly think that writing the review is taking time away from reading more books. But I loved this book SO much that I feel like I really have to take a moment to extoll it's virtues. First: Janice is a beautiful writer. Her words are perfectly chosen, evocative, and never overwrought. It is a modern novel-very different from The Piano Teacher but equally brilliant. Second: It's a story about Hong Kong expat women. I read a few of the more negative reviews on Goodreads and Amazon before I got started, and I expected the characters to be caricatures or negative stereotypes. I found them to be deeply nuanced, real and achingly familiar. Janice Lee's Hong Kong is the Hong Kong that I lived in and loved and miss so deeply. Warts and all. And Janice's apt descriptions of the floating displacement of expat life are just perfect. Third: Despite the pivotal event of the story (not a secret) being a subject that I tend to refuse to expose myself to because it is simply too horrible to contemplate, Janice tells the story with a gentle hand. The story could have been trite, or too sweet or simply a mystery. But she tells the story of women who are trying their hardest to exist and be real and have substance in a world that feels like "The Truman Show" (Her words in the book but frequently used by me to describe my life). Fourth: I found myself reading slowly or taking breaks because I just didn't want the book to end. I was dreading finishing it because I loved it so SO much. This isn't a book I would recommend to everyone because I don't think it would resonate, although the story and the characters are so great. But for me, this book was as accurate a portrayal and as honest and true as I've read of expat privilege and trying to make peace with it while enjoying it in the moment. Bravo, Janice Y.K. Lee. Bravo.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Through the differing experiences of three women, Janice Y K Lee delves into expatriate life in Hong Kong and does so with an acute eye for the nuances of class, culture and race. She gets deep into the heart of an affluent community of Americans and their colonial lifestyle, but also deep into the hearts of the women themselves. Both a social satire and a moving exploration of motherhood, it’s a richly detailed and compelling tale, and the author seems to have made a quantum leap with this nove Through the differing experiences of three women, Janice Y K Lee delves into expatriate life in Hong Kong and does so with an acute eye for the nuances of class, culture and race. She gets deep into the heart of an affluent community of Americans and their colonial lifestyle, but also deep into the hearts of the women themselves. Both a social satire and a moving exploration of motherhood, it’s a richly detailed and compelling tale, and the author seems to have made a quantum leap with this novel from her début The Piano Teacher, this being a far more accomplished book, one with greater depth and insight. I loved it, and read it almost at one sitting. Very good indeed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    What I liked most about the book where the parts dealing with the detached and often snobby expatriate life and those giving a glimpse of Hongkong. The book is well written, the prose quite crisp and to-the-point and the pacing keeps you going, but I had difficulties getting attached to any of the three female characters as they didnt seem to have much of a life beside being a wife and a mother which I found rather one-dimenional.

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