By Ruiyan Xu
St Martin’s Press, $24.99, 340 pages
The book opens with an explosion where Li Jing and his father are injured. When he wakes up, Li Jing can only speak in English (which he spoke while growing up in America). Meiling, his wife, is left to pick up the pieces while her husband recuperates. She goes from being a pampered part-time editor to running her husband’s investment firm. Meiling also finds a doctor, Rosalyn Neal, to travel from Oklahoma to aid in her husband’s recovery of the Chinese language. With the inability to communicate, tension rises in Li Jing’s household. Unspoken words become secondary as observations of “the contradictions between their faces and words” takes center stage. Dr. Neal, due her own discomfort with not knowing the Chinese language, goes down a slippery slope that questions her tactics and her professionalism.
The author explores the provocative meaning of language and the inability to communicate. Li Jing cannot speak Chinese and is therefore paralyzed. Meanwhile, Rosalyn cannot speak Chinese and, until she later meets several expats, experiences the loneliness of being unable to speak or understand her surroundings. Ruiyan Xu is a skilled writer who enables the reader to immerse herself in the inability to communicate verbally. Xu enables the reader to feel compassion towards her characters through careful descriptions that build toward high-tension situations.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff