My Lucky Face

May-lee Chai, Author Soho Press $23 (272p) ISBN 978-1-56947-094-7
Lin Jun's beautiful face has brought her a good teaching job, a handsome husband and a bright, loving son. A young woman in modern China could ask for no more, and yet Lin Jun feels dissatisfied with her existence, especially when her job brings her into contact with a young American teacher. Cynthia's views on life contrast strongly with her own, and Lin Jun begins to question how lucky she really is, particularly in her marriage. Ultimately, a lack of common priorities and an inability to communicate make her consider a divorce. In this novel about conflicting Chinese and American values, Chai stacks the deck in favor of the individualist pursuit of happiness. Clearly Lin Jun, and Lin Jun's contentment, outweigh Chai's interest in culture clash--or, for that matter, in her secondary characters (in even the pivotal Cynthia, of whose life we learn very little). The most vivid passages of writing come in flashbacks in which Lin Jun recalls, for instance, her difficult childhood at the home of her peasant aunt during the Cultural Revolution, or a terrifying act of violence at the Great Wall during a teachers' conference. Loose ends (including a subplot about Lin Jun's missing brother) are left dangling, and the status of her relationships with various family members and friends remain unclear--as, perhaps, it must. Chai's quiet prose resists epiphanies; so too, the plot of her domestic drama resists any easy resolution. Her sincere, unassuming debut should nevertheless win her, and the conflicted Lin Jun, the sympathy of many readers. Author tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997
Release date: 08/01/1997
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-56947-181-4
Show other formats
Discover what to read next