I was really looking forward to reading this book, and I was hoping I would like it, because I will soon be transplanted into Chinese culture/country where I plan to raise my children. My future husband is a native, and I know my children will soon be overtaking my Chinese level by the time they're in kindergarten. So in this book I wanted to catch a glimpse of how the author felt lost/disoriented/isolated in the new country. I felt like I could really relate with all that (except for the cancer part).
She does offer some slices of Beijing life. But I could not enjoy them as much because of her delivery. In the first parts of the book, what I disliked was the airy-fairy, pensive tone of the narrator. She was also a little too heavy-handed with the metaphors. Like, let's say she encounters Object X. She will then compare herself, or her sons, or her husband, to how they are like object or situation X. There's nothing wrong with that, inherently, but maybe it was done in a way that was too conspicuous, or it felt a little forced.
I liked that each chapter was relatively short, like a magazine piece, but I wasn't very fond how the book is generously sprinkled with "Sex In The City" type rhetorical questions or "thoughtful" observations.
Then after the cancer... geez, what a downer. I know I'm not being very sympathetic. I know she's been through hell. I know you've been in an abyss, but do you have to drag your readers down into it as well? It's such a depressing read. I feel it's a waste because she had a lot of material here, but she just wasn't distanced enough from the issue yet to be able to turn it into something closer to art. I felt disappointed because for a poet, her wording is so artless. I was looking for some beautiful turn of phrase. I wanted to tell her: You're a writer! Do more with the language!
Instead it was like her narrative was sapped of energy, and she used only the most basic words, in an ordinary manner.
Too navel-gazing for me. I wish she wasn't so closed off/resistant to/scared of the new culture -- at least in the end. She can be all these things at the start, but I'd love some small signs of transformation that show how she's opened up in the end. She SAYS she's changed, in the end. But I would have wanted to have seen it. I know it's a memoir, but there's too much telling, not enough showing. I guess I wanted vignettes, not a journal.
The best part of the book for me was at the end, the scene where they say goodbye to Lao Wu. It wasn't overwrought, so it struck the right note.
Maybe people who are cancer survivors will appreciate this more than I did.