Shanghai businessman Li Jing is having dinner with his father at a hotel restaurant when the unthinkable happens–there is a massive gas explosion in the kitchen, and the building collapses. When he wakes up in the hospital, where he was taken after a massive shard of glass pierced his skull, Li Jing is diagnosed with bilingual aphasia: he can still comprehend Chinese, but he can no longer speak it; instead he can only speak English, which he learned as a child growing up in Virginia.
American neurologist Rosalyn Neal comes to Shanghai on a fellowship to assist in Li Jing’s rehabilitation; she is struggling with a recent divorce, and comes to Shanghai as much to escape her own past as to assist Li Jing. As the connection between doctor and patient becomes stronger, it is apparent to everyone that their mutual isolation in their inability to speak Chinese is complicating an already complicated situation. And Li Jing’s wife Meiling and son Pang Pang may be the ones who end up paying for it.
As someone who speaks more than one language, this was a fascinating read. I started to wonder how Mr Lush and I would cope if I had a similar accident and could only speak German. Luckily for me, I have several local friends who speak German, as do my parents, but it would still be a strain, as Mr Lush only speaks English.
I also enjoyed that the story was told from the perspective of all the characters. This made it difficult to assign blame: everyone was a real, flawed person, and everyone’s actions (or lack thereof) contributed to the problems they all encountered. The ending is messy, like real life, but it was satisfying.
Ruiyan Xu’s site
Source: borrowed from library