Jasmine Yang arrives in New York City from her rural Chinese village without money or family support, fleeing a controlling husband, on a desperate search for the daughter who was taken from her at birth. But with her husband on her trail, the clock is ticking, and she's forced to make increasingly risky decisions if she ever hopes to be reunited with her daughter. Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney seems to have it all: a prestigious family name and the wealth that comes with it, a high-powered career, a beautiful home, a handsome husband, and an adopted Chinese daughter she adores. She's even hired a nanny to help her balance the demands of being a working wife and mother. But when an industry scandal threatens to jeopardize not only Rebecca's job but her marriage, this perfect world begins to crumble and her role in her own family is called into question.
Intriguing ... While the author’s latest suffers from an abundance of tropes, clichés and stereotypes, it builds momentum and texture in its final chapters. We root for Jasmine and Rebecca as they face impossible choices and emerge stronger for all the battles they’ve fought, always resisting becoming 'leftover' women.
Given the two-dimensional characters, it is the plot that drives this novel: there are several clever twists (plus a few clumsy ones) that unite Rebecca and Jasmine. The language is plush, at times lyrical, though the momentum can get bogged down in detailed descriptions of the characters’ every emotion, and the many glances, facial expressions and jaw-clenches of their social interactions ... But it is on the subjects of race and Asian representation that Kwok, an immigrant herself, disappoints the most. Kwok caters to stereotypes, reducing most of her Chinese characters to English names, and only first names at that. Jasmine is particularly underdeveloped.
Kwok brings her signature lyrical prose to the novel, while suspense simmers in the background. The dangerous club Jasmine works for and the presence of the snakeheads indicate the high stakes, yet there are also tender moments, showing the power of the love both women have for their daughter. Highly recommended.