Guo is an unsparing noticer. She paints a vivid but unflattering portrait of her new dwelling in her adopted country ... The truthfulness and accuracy of Guo’s language gives the book mischief and energy. There are shades of Lydia Davis in her carefully etched sentences as she details the ups and downs of the relationship without sentimentality ... What propels the book forward is in part the sense of suspense that hangs over the nascent relationship: Has our heroine made an enormous mistake getting together with an itchy-footed boat lover? But there’s also something compelling about the breadth of the world the narrator inhabits. The book moves briskly from the canals of North London to Scotland, Australia, Germany and China. Along the way, it’s capacious enough to touch on moments of real darkness, while somehow managing to be mordant, funny and, ultimately, life-affirming ... Guo gives her characters scope to live and suffer, so her book’s final affirmation has a hard-won quality that carries weight.
... a powerful portrait of our volatile political moment ... thoroughly original, a bracing portrayal of rootlessness in a divided nation ... It’s a relatable depiction of an up-and-down courtship. And it’s full of thought-provoking observations about language, art, gender and expat life ... an intellectually stimulating gem, a timely novel that won’t feel any less beguiling as the years pass.
Almost each chapter includes a dizzying moment of mutual exclusivity like this one, of suddenly realized difference from others, the book like a series of high existential peaks from which the narrator might plummet ... The constant shifting of what constitutes 'difference' makes Guo’s portrait of an immigrant experience a restless and mesmerizing one ... The interplay of each of them through the narrator’s vast intelligence and sensitivity—and Guo’s ability to keep them all in play through the strict structuring and pacing of chapters and sections—makes the characters’ reactions reliably unpredictable, frequently delightful, and, at times, deeply moving.