This collection of stories focuses on the experiences of Chinese immigrants in both China and America. They are loosely connected; characters from one story will be mentioned in another. These people do not have the nice house of the family in ‘Fresh Off the Boat’; the family in the first story at one point are sharing one room with 10 people; the room is just mattresses on the floor. Not to mention the cockroaches…. Other stories have the children left alone to take care of themselves because bother parents are working; in one, sexual exploration turns into sexual violence. One man whose lives in poverty with his wife and child has an endless string of mistresses. A grandmother claims to have breastfed her grandchildren, she loved them so much. A mother demands to be loved more than her husband, putting her child in an intolerable bind.
These are really grim stories. I had trouble finishing the book. I don’t demand all happy endings and unicorns farting rainbows, but there were no bright spots in these stories. Still, there are moments of laughter. Zhang writes with black humor that doesn’t lighten the mood but does make it survivable. I think I’m not sophisticated enough for this book.
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