Happy Tuesday and Happy Publication Day to A River of Stars, a wonderfully told story of the Chinese immigrant experience from the perspective of a new mother.
A River of Stars focuses on Scarlett Chen, a factory worker who has an affair with the married owner, Boss Heung. Scarlett is pregnant, and doctors tell her that she and Boss Heung will be having a boy, which is everything to Boss. He has three daughters and has always desired a son. Boss Heung becomes obsessed with the baby’s care in utero and wants him to have the best of the best. In securing that, he sends Scarlett to the U.S. to live in a secret home with other pregnant Chinese women, most of them immigrants. The plan is for Scarlett to give birth in America, which will hopefully provide a lifetime of opportunities for the baby.
While living in the home, Scarlett is forced to get along with difficult housemates and take part in cultural rituals of bitter and unusual stews and other medicinal aids for pregnant women. She finds a friend in Daisy, a pregnant teen with citizenship who has been placed in the home to keep her away from her American boyfriend.
At a late doctor’s appointment, Scarlett is told she is having a girl instead…and she panics. She is already living on edge with Boss. How will she ever be able to tell him the truth, and what will it mean for her future, as well as the baby’s? So, she flees in an attempt to find the American dream on her terms. Surprise: Boss is in the U.S. and hot on her heels.
A River of Stars is a well-written, entertaining romp of a story. It highlights the Chinese immigrant experience in the United States, whether rich or poor, naturalized citizen, or recent immigrant. At the same time, it is an adventure as Scarlett and Daisy set out to satisfy their dreams. Moreover, it is a story of a woman taking charge of her life when cultural values would typically hinder her, finding a sense of home/a sense of place, and examining motherhood, mother-daughter relationships, and identity. It is an enchanting stand-out of a book.
Thank you to Random House/Ballantine Books for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.
Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he’s overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.
As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.
Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van–only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her.
A River of Stars is an entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure, told with empathy and wit. It’s a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.
Have you read A River of Stars, or do you plan to? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR