An international entertainment duo settles in Shanghai, where they drift apart both personally and professionally.
Bored and antsy after college graduation, Karla stows her diploma with her parents in Maine and heads for the high seas as an entertainer aboard a cruise ship. Though she quickly finds that cruising isn’t the permanent vacation she thinks it will be (cramped quarters, low pay, heavy work schedules), she connects with the crew, especially an attractive Brit named Jack, and ends up staying for another year. Jack and Karla quickly morph from partners on stage to a bona fide cruise couple, and at the end of their second year, they take off together to become land entertainers in a series of hokey Middle Eastern bars. They scratch off Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Oman before they get a semi-permanent assignment in Shanghai. There, Jack and Karla become ensconced in the world of the Sky Bar, on the 25th floor of the Palace Hotel. By night, Jack and Karla belt out endless ballads for Chinese tourists, but by day, they have different priorities. Jack is uninterested in touring the city, and makes himself busy by founding and running a business booking other like-minded entertainment duos for overseas gigs. Karla, bored and lonely, befriends Willow, the Sky Bar’s 18-year-old hostess with a much older Italian boyfriend. But when Willow becomes pregnant, it becomes apparent the baby might belong not to him, but to Jack. Karla purports throughout the novel to be continuously exhausted by her life of faux glamour, but her complacency is infuriating. Her relationship with Jack lacks spark from the first page, and with a supportive family and job prospects back in New England, sustaining the novel’s already diluted plotline seems to be her only motivation to remain in Shanghai.
Vapid and uninteresting.