The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage [NOOK Book]


Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken ...

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The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage

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Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken connection between them and they decide to marry.

What follows is a remarkably touching and humorous story of two people from completely different worlds trying to make a marriage work. Settling in at Ellen’s ramshackle farmhouse in upstate New York, they quickly discover the cultural chasm that lies between them. Ellen and her teenage daughter decide to adopt a policy of nonjudgment as Zhong-hua lobbies to sell their refrigerator (“Just three people, no need”), serves them giant sea slugs for dinner, and brusquely nudges Ellen aside without an “excuse me” (“Family no need these kind of words”).

Zhong-hua is not the type to offer his wife impromptu smiles or hugs, but in bed at night he holds her tightly like she’s “something long lost and precious that might not live until morning.” The Natural Laws of Good Luck is an unusual and exquisitely written love story—one that will resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated with wonder the spaces that exist between us and those we care about.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
How far would you go for the chance to find love? Graf, a 46-year-old single mom, went halfway around the world -- and the improbable rewards of her journey are recounted in this delightful memoir. A divorcée with four children, Graf feels lonely and discouraged with dating when a Chinese friend suggests that she meet her single brother. Slowly, she finds herself warming to the notion. After all, she thinks, if her earlier methods of trying to find love have failed, why not try something new? So she takes off for China, where she meets and quickly marries the short, stout, quiet Lu Zhong-hua.

Graf returns to New York alone, and after obtaining a visa, Zhong-hua follows. Together, they begin to forge a life, although Zhong-hua's customs and beliefs are a steady source of bewilderment to Graf and of great amusement for her readers. For example, Zhong-hua finds it unnecessary to say "thank you," "excuse me," or even "hello" or "goodbye" to his new spouse, which leaves her uncertain as to where he is or how he feels about things. Cultures also clash when Zhong-hua attempts to find a job and drive a car -- two experiences that make for riotous reading. Yet throughout the book, Graf's affection for and devotion to him is unmistakable.

What makes a marriage work? Any answer you now have is bound to change when you read this tender and remarkable memoir. (Fall 2009 Selection)
Kirkus Reviews
A debut author examines the unusual union with her husband. After a divorce and little success with personal ads, 46-year-old Graf began to feel an overwhelming loneliness. When her Chinese neighbor suggested that she meet her similarly lonely brother, Graf set off to China. Though she describes herself as "an anxious person and not eager to trust," the author married Zhong-hua a few weeks after meeting him. "We shared the implicit trust of mountain climbers," she writes, "based solely on the certainty that the other will not purposely let you fall." This stoic pragmatism helped Graf endure an 18-month waiting period before her husband could move to America, another 18 months before his adolescent daughter could join them, and, finally, Zhong-hua's bout with cancer. The culture shock each has endured-expressed in Graf's vivid though gnarled prose-is mind-boggling. When her husband bumped into her one day, the author was surprised that he didn't offer an apology or even an "excuse me." She soon learned, however, that apologies of any kind would not be forthcoming because in China there is no distinction between oneself and one's mate. As for Zhong-hua, the surgery he underwent for his cancer was not only strange and foreign but antithetical to the teachings of his beloved Tai Chi and Qigong. The lengthy transcriptions of the couple's dialogue often slows the narrative pace, and though Graf offers occasionally insightful commentary on the danger of cultural assumptions, the many unanswered questions make for a frustrating read. A middling memoir of romantic and spiritual exploration.
From the Publisher
“One of the funniest and most moving love stories to come around in a long time.”—Library Journal

“A poignant, witty look at cultural misunderstandings, the intimacies of marriage, and the deep bonds of human connection.”—Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai's Garden

“A compelling read for anyone with an interest in the nuts and bolts of how to keep a marriage together.”—Times Union

“A delightful account of East meets West in a loving relationship, complete with inevitable culture clashes resulting from wildly different ethnicities, customs, and background experiences. This appealing, true tale of adaptation (an ongoing process required in any marriage but taken here to extremes) is infused with an unforced sweetness and offers heartfelt and authentic proof of what we do for love.”—Booklist

“Ellen Graf and her husband, Lu Zhong-hua, take the realm of marriage and spin it on an irresistible new axis. Quite simply the greatest love story I’ve ever read.”—Aimee Liu, author of Cloud Mountain

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834822641
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • File size: 666 KB

Meet the Author

Ellen Graf is a writer and sculptor. She has received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Grant, and she holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.

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Read an Excerpt

In China, my husband had never driven a car. He was sure he could learn in two hours. He owned a big a motorcycle in China. How different could it be?
I soon discovered that the solid centerlines had no significance to him. The lanes held no association to restricted sideways movement. Country drivers in big-wheeled pick-up trucks sped up and skimmed past us, shouting obscenities. I instructed Zhong-Hua in the basics, that the person on the main road had right-of-way and that a red light meant stop until the light changed to green.
“I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean, you don’t think so? Red means don’t go. You have to wait, that’s the law.”
“In China, who can go, just go. Is okay. Big road, small road, left turn, right turn—this doesn’t matter. Just watch, see, look at. Okay—go. Not okay—not go. Also, people drive on any side of the road. Which side open, which side drive.”
“Watch out! Stay in your lane, stay in your lane!”
“Another driver say ‘asshole.’ What is asshole?”
“It means he’s mad. Get over, get over!”
I was gasping and holding onto the ceiling, my feet braced against the dash. My husband sighed and said I “must be” ride in the back seat because I was making him nervous and this was “very danger.” I wasn’t in the habit of drinking alcohol, but for several weeks, as soon as we returned home alive from a driving excursion, I sedated myself with Chinese wine, the kind that numbs your mouth like Novocain for a full hour.
One day my husband turned left from the right-hand lane, cutting off a Lincoln Continental. Brakes screamed, and Zhong-Hua was looking right into the quivering jowls of the red-faced driver. The man stuck his whole face out the window and sputtered, “You almost killed us!”
“I said you almost killed us, buddy. Do you hear?”
“Yes, yes.”
“What do you have to say when I say you almost killed us?”
“Thank you very much!”
“I’m yelling at you. Why do you say thank you?”
“I don’t know. I just think, thank you.”
“Okay, you’re welcome.” The guy pulled his face back. Zhong-Hua waved and thanked him again.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great storyline

    I loved the story between these 2 people. My fault with the book is I wish that she would have told us how they were doing as of the publishing of this story. It was funny and at times made you sad but you will remember them.

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