Lucy Tan’s WHAT WE WERE PROMISED – A shimmering debut from a promising new writer
WHAT WE WERE PROMISED is one of those books I knew I would love as soon as I read the blurb! (Just look at this book list from January!) So, I did everything in my power to secure an ARC from the publishers (that I’m very grateful for). Lucy Tan’s WHAT WE WERE PROMISED is the enthralling story of Chinese family forced, by the return of a prodigal son, to address familial issues and unfulfilled promises.
When Wei lands a job in China, Lina, Wei and their daughter, Karen move back to Shanghai. After years of living as immigrants in America, Lina assumes the role of a house-wife in China. Except, she doesn’t actually do any housework in their fully serviced apartment. Although on the surface, the Zhens appear to have it all, things are not as they seem. Lina is haunted by the events surrounding her arranged marriage to Wei and her unresolved feelings for his estranged brother, Qiang. Wei wishes his job was nobler, more patriotic. The tensions in this book boil over when Qiang suddenly returns to the Zhen’s lives. Still, the presence of the Zhen’s housekeeper, Sunny, enriches this novel even more. She observes all the issues that Wei and Lina themselves work hard to ignore as she deals with her own life struggles.
What I loved
This book boasts a very memorable cast of characters. Tan has so lovingly crafted each character that it is impossible not to see them clearly in your mind’s eye as you read. Lina, perennially uncertain about her choices is torn between two men she loves for reasons different as night and day. Wei and Qiang, each sharply different from the other and yet, needing each other. Sunny, stoic and yet tender. The people in Lucy Tan’s WHAT WE WERE PROMISED possess complex emotions that will resonate with everyone who reads this novel.
[bctt tweet=”The people in @citizensofspace Lucy Tan’s WHAT WE WERE PROMISED possess complex emotions that will resonate with everyone who reads this novel. @littlebrown” username=”afomaumesi”]
In addition, what I enjoyed the most about this novel would probably be Tan’s style of writing. Barely ten pages in, I was struck by the poignancy of her deceptively simple style. This book is full of astute observations about life, love, and the choices we make for the people we love. Combined with compelling characters, the mystery of Qiang’s return and what it will mean for the Zhens, this book is hard to put down. Also, the shimmering backdrop of Shanghai — the food, the architecture, and yes, the smog, make Tan’s novel feel like a complete visit to China.
[bctt tweet=”the shimmering backdrop of Shanghai — the food, the architecture, and yes, the smog, make @citizensofspace Lucy Tan’s novel feel like a complete visit to China.” username=”afomaumesi”]
Lucy Tan’s WHAT WE WERE PROMISED is sure to be on my list of favorite books from this year. I’ve already recommended it enough times to lose count. If you like books with simple language, insightful commentary about life and complex characters, read WHAT WE WERE PROMISED. A compelling, sensitive and thoughtful debut that is sure to move you, I highly recommend this novel!
[bctt tweet=”If you like books with simple language, insightful commentary about life and complex characters, read WHAT WE WERE PROMISED by @citizensofspace @littlebrown” username=”afomaumesi”]
Rating 5/5 stars