In her first novel, Sun explores a cross-cultural love affair in the world of international business.
In many ways, Lu and Will could not be more different: Lu grew up in China, barely survived the Cultural Revolution, and fled to the United States as soon as possible. The past haunts Lu wherever she goes, especially family members, both living and dead. In contrast, Will is a Navy veteran, a surfer, and the easygoing CEO of a successful tech company. But when a corporate merger throws them together, Lu and Will become star-crossed lovers, and their delicate business dealings become all the more complex. Sun writes competently about Wall Street culture, and she creates a convincing cast of blustery boardroom characters. But the book’s most engaging chapters limn Lu’s difficult back story. When she returns to China after 30 years in the U.S., Lu pieces together a painful tale of politics, parentage, and betrayal. Meanwhile, she barely recognizes her homeland through its choking smog and development. Sun is a very slow storyteller, and the book takes a long time to find purchase. The prose is a mix of deep exposition, corporate-speak, and logistical data. When Will chides his sister for enjoying happy hour too much, she woodenly replies: “Stop being so controlling. I am forty-seven years old and having a drink or two with my brother. What kind of trouble can I get into? If you are really worried about me, why don’t you also order me a salad. I haven’t eaten anything since this morning.” In place of subtext, Sun frames her novel with a Chinese folk tale about a fairy who falls in love with a general. When the general proves cruel, the fairy allows him to die and opts to live alone on the moon. This tale is told twice in the first 10 pages, and it serves as a relentless metaphor for Lu’s displacement.
Dry but readable, Sun’s book bridges the gap between Chinese tradition and an increasingly globalized West.