Friday, June 13, 2008

Pg. 69: Wendy Lee's "Happy Family"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Wendy Lee's Happy Family.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Hua Wu arrives in New York City, her life seems destined to resemble that of countless immigrants before her. She spends her hectic days working in a restaurant in Chinatown, and her lonesome nights in a noisy, crowded tenement, yearning for those she left behind in Fuzhou, China.

But one day in a park in the West Village, a chance encounter alters the course of Hua’s life, as well as the lives of others. She meets Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, a two-year-old adopted from China. Eager to expose Lily to the language and culture of the country of her birth, Jane decides to hire Hua to be her nanny.

From the moment she steps into Jane’s brownstone apartment, Hua finds herself in a world far removed from the cramped streets of Chinatown or her grandmother’s home in Fuzhou. Jane, a museum curator of Asian art, and her husband, a theater critic, are cultured and successful. They pull Hua into their circle of family and friends until she is deeply attached to Lily and their way of life. But when cracks show in the family’s perfect fa├žade, what will Hua do to protect the little girl who reminds her so much of her own past?

A beautiful and revelatory novel with a deceptively simple premise, Happy Family is a promising debut from a perceptive and graceful writer.
Among the early praise for Happy Family:
"Rich and multilayered, Lee's novel explores what it means to be a part of something, whether it's a family or a culture. Told in Hua's sparse, somber voice, the story grabs readers from the start and doesn't let go until the final page. A truly memorable first outing."
Booklist (starred review)

"This first novel uncoils slyly, then strikes with startling yet inevitable plot developments that unfold before the reader sees them coming....Hua's innate intelligence and irreducible sense of self resonate in every observation as she decodes the monied, impuslive lifestyle of the Templeton-Walkers, their cultured friends and the country that they call their own. A powerful debut."
Kirkus Reviews

"First novelist Lee's craftsmanship is evident in sparse but expressive prose. She carefully and insightfully handles the contentious issue of the adoption of Chinese children.....This debut delivers on the promise of Lee's interesting premise."
Library Journal

"Heartfelt….Impassionate storytelling."
Publishers Weekly

"Wendy Lee's moving and assured first novel unravels the tangled knot of international adoption to reveal its finest, most delicate threads: the uncertainties of parenthood, the unexpected affections between strangers, and, ultimately, the origins of enduring love."
—Dana Sachs, author of If You Lived Here and The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam

“Even just describing the premise of this novel brings a certain anxiety: a Chinese au pair is hired by a white couple who’ve adopted a Chinese daughter. Wendy Lee debuts with a quietly dangerous novel of domestic life, about that anxiety, asking the uncomfortable questions: who do we belong to and who do we belong with, and can we change that? The story moves among some of the new taboos in American life as we live it now, sure-footed and unflinching, funny and smart—a remarkable first novel.”
—Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh

“For anyone who wants to delve into the troubled psyche of the many silent millions in this country, this moving tale of a young Chinese immigrant woman who is handpicked to care for a child closer to herself than its legal mother is required reading. Like the novel’s misleadingly innocuous title, Wendy Lee’s intentionally light hand allows for the showcasing of some very courageous and harrowing brush strokes.”
—Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects

“Lee’s sure-footed debut locates the raw nerve connecting two social phenomena—China’s one-child law and the adoption of Chinese babies by American parents. Hua, Lee’s stranger in a strange land, speaks in a soft but firm voice from the ineradicable margin.”
—Ed Park, author of Personal Days
Read an excerpt from Happy Family, and learn more about the book and author at Wendy Lee's website.

Wendy Lee is a graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program. She worked for two years in China as a volunteer English teacher.

The Page 69 Test: Happy Family.

--Marshal Zeringue