Anne Tyler meets Jade Chang in this buoyant, good-hearted, and sharply written novel about a blithely optimistic immigrant with big dreams, dire prospects, and a fractured extended family in need of his help—even if they don’t know it yet
Eighteen-year-old Shelley, born into a much-despised branch of the Zheng family in Yunnan Province and living in the shadow of his widowed father’s grief, dreams of bigger things. Buoyed by an exuberant heart and his cousin Deng’s tall tales about the United States, Shelley heads to San Francisco to claim his destiny, confident that any hurdles will be easily overcome by the awesome powers of the “Chinese groove,” a belief in the unspoken bonds between countrymen that transcend time and borders.
Upon arrival, Shelley is dismayed to find that his “rich uncle” is in fact his unemployed second cousin once removed and that the grand guest room he’d envisioned is but a scratchy sofa. The indefinite stay he’d planned for? That has a firm two-week expiration date. Even worse, the loving family he hoped would embrace him is in shambles, shattered by a senseless tragedy that has cleaved the family in two. They want nothing to do with this youthful bounder who’s barged into their lives. Ever the optimist, Shelley concocts a plan to resuscitate his American dream by insinuating himself into the family. And, who knows, maybe he’ll even manage to bring them back together in the process.