River of Stars
by Hua, Vanessa






Betrayed by the boss who is also the father of her unborn child, an undocumented Chinese factory worker is forced to flee and reinvent herself in San Francisco's Chinatown in the desperate hopes of securing American citizenship for her baby.





Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of a short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities. For two decades, she has been writing, in journalism and fiction, about Asia and the Asian diaspora. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. A River of Stars is Vanessa Hua’s first novel.





In Perfume Bay, a luxurious oasis just outside Los Angeles, pregnant Chinese women are pampered through the U.S. birth of precious progeny who will provide their parents with "a foothold in America." Among the guests is factory-manager Scarlett Chen, sent to the U.S. to bear the son of her older, married lover, who's also her employer. As their long-distance relationship stagnates, Scarlett can't risk losing her unborn child to Boss Yeung. She manages to commandeer the residence's van for a late-night escape, then discovers a stowaway: Perfume Bay's youngest and most rebellious resident, Daisy, who still believes she can find her missing boyfriend. The unlikely pair flee to San Francisco's Chinatown, where accepting the kindness of strangers, clever bartering, peddling the "Chinese slider," and catering a gay wedding keep them afloat until the inevitable confrontation converges at City Hall. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Hua follows her intriguing short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016), with an astute debut novel that confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a twenty-first-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





A pregnant Chinese woman goes on the run in America to escape her controlling ex. Scarlett never imagined she would find herself somewhere like Perfume Bay, a posh private accommodation for expectant Chinese mothers in Los Angeles. But when she gets pregnant with her boss's baby, and that baby turns out to be a boy, everything in her life changes in an instant. Boss Yeung will take no risks with the son he's always dreamed of…even if that son is illegitimate. Scarlett, who is used to working in factories and fending for herself, is not prepared for life among the pampered women at Perfume Bay who have come to America to secure citizenship for their children. When she finds out that Boss Yeung wants to pay her to give her baby up to his legitimate family, she finally decides to take her life back into her own hands and escape the claustrophobic Perfume Bay. But she doesn't anticipate being accompanied by Daisy, a spunky and occasionally obnoxious teenager whose parents s ent her away when she got pregnant with her beloved boyfriend's baby. The two women escape north to San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood, where they scrounge together food and money for themselves and their newborns—all while Boss Yeung gets closer and closer to tracking Scarlett down. This debut novel from Hua, who has previously published a collection of short stories (Deceit and Other Possibilities, 2016), paints a vivid picture of Scarlett and Daisy's unromantic and occasionally squalid, but nevertheless vibrant, life in Chinatown. Scarlett's fear of being discovered by Boss Yeung never fully dissipates, but it is ultimately overtaken by her fear of being discovered by American authorities who could deport her, and her constant paranoia is palpable. Unfortunately, the novel never fully capitalizes on its strengths. Boss Yeung's narrative is tedious, and Scarlett's lacks momentum. And the novel's saccharine ending undercuts its atmospheric successes. A 21st-centur y immigrant story that, while intermittently intriguing, falls short of its potential. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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