Isabelle Lee thinks she knows everything about Chinese cuisine. After all, during her Chinese-American childhood, she ate it every day. Isabelle may speak only "kitchen Chinese"--the familial chatter learned at her mother's knee--but she understands the language of food. Now, in the wake of a career-ending catastrophe, she's ready for a change--so she takes off for Beijing to stay with her older sister, Claire, whom she's never really known, and finds a job writing restaurant reviews for an expat magazine. In the midst of her extreme culture shock, and the more she comes to learn about her sister's own secrets, Isabelle can't help but wonder whether coming to China was a mistake . . . or an extraordinary chance to find out who she really is.
After her magazine career craters, Isabelle Lee, the narrator of Mah's super sharp debut, leaves New York to reconnect with her family roots in China. Her familiarity with the language and culture limited to kitchen Chinese, Isabelle lands a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and finds a circle of friends. However, her relationship with her big-shot attorney sister, Claire, who's lived in China for a while, gets off to a rocky start, with the two not knowing quite what to make of each other. Isabelle's Beijing immersion, coupled with her chick lit arc, provides a refreshing and fun narrative, helped along by a fantastic heroine whose insights into modern China and the expatriate experience will intrigue readers. It's a great start for a writer with much promise. (Feb.)
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February 08, 2010
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