Happy Family: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview


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 in a restaurant in Chinatown, and her lonesome nights in a noisy, crowded tenement, yearning for those she left behind. But one day in a park in the West Village, Hua meets Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, a two-year-old adopted from China. Eager to expose Lily to the language and culture of her ...
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Happy Family: A Novel

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Overview


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 in a restaurant in Chinatown, and her lonesome nights in a noisy, crowded tenement, yearning for those she left behind. But one day in a park in the West Village, Hua meets Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, a two-year-old adopted from China. Eager to expose Lily to the language and culture of her birth country, Jane hires Hua to be her nanny.

Hua soon finds herself in a world far removed from the cramped streets of Chinatown or her grandmother’s home in Fuzhou, China. 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 façade, what will Hua do to protect the little girl who reminds her so much of her own past? A beautiful and revelatory novel, Happy Family is the promising debut of a perceptive and graceful writer.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lee's debut novel is the heartfelt story of Hua Wu, a young Chinese immigrant who comes to New York City and serendipitously becomes a nanny to an adopted Chinese girl, Lily Templeton-Walker, after meeting her American mother, Jane, in the park. Hua becomes attached to the child and involved in the family, but is disturbed when she uncovers trouble in Jane's marriage. She begins to snoop around her employers' apartment hoping to discover the reason behind the turmoil; the more she finds the more she fears what will happen if Lily's parents separate. This drama takes second stage when Hua meets Evan, the man with whom she wrongly assumed Jane was having an affair. Hua and Evan have an odd one-night stand, during which the author flashes back to Hua's sexual encounter with a teacher in China. Hua's memory of Teacher Zhang leads to a revelation about her past, which prompts Hua to attempt to protect Lily from the pain of her parents' conflict-a rare instance in which Hua takes action. Unfortunately, Lee's impassioned storytelling is unable to make up for prose that is at times overwritten and melodramatic. The passive and often stereotypical characters make this portrait of a Chinese immigrant feel simplistic and uninspired. (June)

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Library Journal

"Happy family" is not just the name of a dish on a Chinese menu-it also refers ironically to the relationships that Hua Wu discovers in her new home, New York City. Originally from Fuzhou, China, Hua Wu spends most of her time missing her homeland and her grandmother before connecting in a West Village park with Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, who was adopted from China. Soon, the young Chinese woman leaves her restaurant job to nanny for Jane and Richard, Jane's husband. A strong bond quickly grows between Hua Wu and Lily; when the familial facade finally fractures, Hua Wu takes the steps that she believes are necessary to protect Lily. 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. Aside from characters who are flat in comparison with Hua Wu, this debut delivers on the promise of Lee's interesting premise. Recommended for large fiction collections.
—Faye A. Chadwell

Kirkus Reviews
An illegal immigrant from China becomes entangled in the lives of a successful New York couple and their adopted Chinese daughter. Hua Wu arrives in America with a secret from her past and a blank screen for her future. Neither she nor the grandmother who raised her envisioned the life Hua leads in New York City's Chinatown, working long hours in a restaurant and living alone in a tenement rooming house. But Hua is young and smart, speaks excellent English and accepts her fate; there is nothing for her back in Fuzhou. Between the lunch rush and dinner hours, she wanders the city, observing the strange culture around her. One day in a park she meets Jane Templeton, an American woman with a two-year-old Chinese child, Lily. Hua knows the orphanage Lily came from, one of many established as a result of China's One Child Policy. Jane, a curator at an Asian Arts museum, likes the idea of Lily learning about her background. Though Hua has never been around children and can't even change a diaper, Jane hires her as Lily's nanny. In addition to having full-time careers, Jane and her husband, playwright/critic Richard Walker, frequently spend the evening out on the town. During many days and nights together, the novice nanny and the little girl become inseparable. Then the Templeton-Walkers' marital troubles threaten Hua's relationship with Lily, just as word arrives from China of her grandmother's death. Narrated by Hua two years after she arrived in America, this first novel uncoils slyly, then strikes with startling yet inevitable plot developments that unfold before the reader sees them coming. Jane, her husband and, to a certain extent, Lily are a few brushstrokes shy of being completeportraits, but Hua's innate intelligence and irreducible sense of self resonate in every observation as she decodes the monied, impulsive lifestyle of the Templeton-Walkers, their cultured friends and the country that they call their own. A powerful debut. Agent: Shana Kelly/William Morris Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555849221
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/17/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 464,229
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Wendy Lee is a graduate of Stanford University and NYU’s creative writing program. She worked for three years in China and now lives in New York City. This is her first novel.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    Beautifully written, inaccurate account

    This book was beautifully written and I loved Hua's viewpoint. The author did not do enough research on American adoption of Chinese children. She got some of the details wrong, and I think it was arrogant to assume that bringing these little girls to the US will not necessarily give them a better life and that they will not enjoy the love of an extended family. Unlike the China the world saw at the Beijing Olympics, the China I saw when I went to rescue my daughter from indifference, lack of much needed medical care and no future was one of staggering poverty and hopelessness. Every American family of adopted Chinese daughters that I know go to great lengths to give their children a knowledge and pride of their Chinese culture, while giving them the opportunity for world class medical care, a first rate education through college and a loving family that may not look like them, but love them dearly. Still, I recommend the book, the writing is excellent, Hua's story is intriguing and I would like to hear more about her life.

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