The Expatriates is Janice Y. K. Lee's second novel. (Her first, The Piano Teacher, received glowing reviews from editors if not from all readers.) This new effort is a compelling read about affluent ex-pats in bustling, present-day Hong Kong. The city is temporary home to thousands of lawyers and business-people, who, along with their families, are all benefiting quite nicely from the global economy.
Set within -- but also in stark relief against -- this backdrop of monied privilege are the troubled lives of three very different women, from whose rotating vantage point the novel is narrated.
Mercy, a young Korean-American Columbia grad, has come to Hong Kong to try to find the big, fancy job that has thus far eluded her back in the States. Hilary, a 38-year-old with a troubled, or, more accurately, receding marriage, is unable to conceive the child she so wants. Margaret, the beautiful, kind, nearly impeccable landscape architect, has left her career behind to accompany her husband to Hong Kong, where the whole family suffers a tragic event that leaves them (and this reader) reeling.
I enjoyed this novel very much. Unlike the characters in too many novels these days, these women are sympathetic, although not always entirely likable. Like all of us, they make mistakes and they pay the price. The novel resolves nicely too, in a realistic way that may not satisfy those who crave really happy endings but doesn't leave the reader at all hopeless either. The author does a wonderful job of evoking the lifestyles of those for whom Asia is both workplace and playground, while at the same time demonstrating that money is often of very little value when it comes to solving serious personal problems. In a money-mad age, we sometimes forget that last bit.
~Ann, Adult Services