A thought-provoking and intriguing, though unevenly written, novel of the expatriate life and one man’s discovery of what...

Now You Are Lisa


An American expatriate reevaluates his life in China.

In this contemporary novel, Moreau (Understanding China, 2015) draws on his own experience living and working in China as he tells the story of Adam Bertrand, an American executive in charge of a Chinese manufacturing operation. Adam’s management style is effective, but serves as a source of conflict with his boss, a by-the-books CEO unfamiliar with the culture, from the opening pages. Adam is also on his third marriage, this time to Li Qing, his former masseuse, also known as Lisa. When it becomes clear that Adam’s career in China has reached its end, he looks back at his life while figuring out the next steps, made more difficult by laws limiting the immigration of Chinese wives like Li Qing. Adam confronts his strengths and shortcomings, establishes a comfortable relationship with the children of his previous marriage, and plots a path forward that meets his physical and emotional needs. Moreau’s familiarity with the expatriate experience in China is evident throughout the book, with a vividly drawn setting, though the blanket statements about Chinese culture delivered in an authoritative voice (“As receiver-oriented communicators, the Chinese can be poor conversationalists if the feel no sense of personal obligation to the speaker” [139]) may raise eyebrows. The narrative is somewhat uneven, filled with professorial asides (“Humans think through a process called precognitive conclusion. Even in the current moment when all data is theoretically available, our brains process only a small fraction of the data presented to it for analysis” [147]) and organized into a timeline that leaves the reader wondering at some points whether action is taking place in Adam’s past or present. Adam is a flawed but ultimately likable protagonist whose emotional and intellectual growth over the course of the book serve as his redemption, and Moreau presents a unique vantage point for understanding the role Americans play in a multicultural world.

A thought-provoking and intriguing, though unevenly written, novel of the expatriate life and one man’s discovery of what matters most to him.

Pub Date: May 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5307-9881-0

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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