From author Wendy Lee’s web site:
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, and her lonesome nights in a crowded tenement, yearning for those she left behind in Fuzhou, China.
But one day everything changes for Hua, when she meets Jane Templeton and her daughter Lily, a two-year-old adopted from China. Worried that Lily will know little about the country of her birth, or her native language, Jane eventually decides to hire Hua to be her nanny.
From the moment she steps into Jane’s West Village brownstone, Hua finds herself in a world far removed from the cramped streets of Chinatown or her grandmother’s home in Fuzhou. Soon she is deeply attached to Lily and her adoptive parents. But when cracks show in the beautiful façade, what will Hua do to protect the little girl who reminds her so much of her own past? An elegant and poignant debut novel, Happy Family is an entrancing exploration of love and loss, the familiar and the foreign, and the ties that bind strangers together.
A few thoughts and questions:
- I appreciated that this story wasn’t told from the adoptive parent’s perspective. I thought having the protagonist be a fellow Chinese immigrant (by fellow I mean that both the main character and Lily are immigrants yet how they are perceived and the way they get to America are so contrasting) offered a perspective and juxtaposed American/Chinese values of just what makes one “Chinese” more thought provoking than from a purely white/adoptive parent perspective (see also Wang Ping’s poem from her book, The Magic Whip).
- I’m curious whether the narrative distance in the relationship between the main character, Hua, and the adoptive parents contributed or offered more or less empathy than some of the other books where the story is told from the perspective of the adoptive parents.
- Having read “Digging to America” and “The Love Wife” which also feature Asian adoption but from the perspectives of adoptive parents, how do the adoptive parents in “Happy Family” compare? Are they more stereoptyped? Less? The same? I find some common characterizations in all of these books, as well as an especially specific “type” of adoptive mother portrayal in these novels.
- Do you think this story is making a statement about international adoption? Or is the adoption story a vehicle for Hua’s character development?
What are your thoughts?