From Publishers Weekly
Li Jing is a Shanghai investment banker whose head injury renders him able to speak only the English of his American childhood, leaving his wife, Meiling, perplexed and uncomprehending, in Xu's ambitious debut. Diagnosed with Broca's aphasia, Li's recovery is uncertain, with hope resting on Rosalyn Neal, an American doctor who's fled problems back home in Oklahoma. Li refuses to speak at all until Rosalyn begins to reveal her own past, moving Li to recall his time in the U.S. he left at the age of 10. The two women fight for Li's life and loyalty; as Li makes progress, he grows more distant from Meiling, and her efforts to preserve their former life. Xu lovingly recreates 1999 Shanghai and skillfully shows the culture clashes among the city's native, immigrant, and ex-patriate populations, swinging gracefully between these worlds, but she gets snagged in her own intricate plotting. The characters are portrayed with empathy and care, but the suspense over Jing's fate is lost in too many narrative digressions and an ending that falls flat.
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A massive explosion in a Shanghai hotel leaves 32-year-old businessman Li Jing unable to utter a single word in Chinese. Instead, he is only able to speak in halting English, which he learned as a child and which he last spoke at the age of 10. His family pays to bring in American neurologist Rosalyn Neal. Li Jing’s beautiful wife, Meiling, is left to try to run his financial consulting firm and to allay the anxiety of their young son. Because Li Jing and Rosalyn Neal, who has recently divorced, are both isolated by their inability to communicate in Chinese, they soon form a bond born of mutual fear and vulnerability. And Meiling, who always took her husband’s adoration for granted, is dealt another blow by the easy camaraderie of doctor and patient, which stands in such stark contrast to the married couple’s strained attempts to connect. Set in a dense, dizzyingly urban Shanghai, Xu’s elegant first novel affectingly addresses the way identity and language intertwine and the emotional anguish of estrangement. --Joanne Wilkinson