Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel, The Expatriates, is a lyrical and close look at the lives of three women living in Hong Kong. While the women do have differences, their stories and lives have strong intersections and Lee’s wonderful storytelling ability blends the stories together smoothly. The novel speaks of three lives on hold while in Hong Kong and the development of the characters, their emotions and their situations, make this a fast, enjoyable read.
Mercy, Margaret and Hilary are in Hong Kong for different reasons, Mercy a former student laden with bad luck and the latter two being wives and/or mothers, in Hong Kong for their husband’s careers. The raw emotional complexities they all face weave their stories together. Each woman suffers in silence to a point and often throughout the novel it feels that the reader is the only one privy to the private emotions and struggles that each woman faces. When the three are brought together, Lee manages to keep each of the stories separate, but I enjoyed when the lives intersected. It was also interesting to read the novel as an American, to see how life in the American zone of Hong Kong was a different version of the city, yet certain elements, cultural aspects and even problems did creep into the “protected” zone for the expats.
The Expatriates is an interesting, moving read that lets the reader into three lives that on the surface, reflect very little of what is transpiring under the surface until the story progresses. There is a certain sadness in the story that flows through perfectly parallel to Lee’s vibrant and often sultry, descriptive language.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.