18 Jul / A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua [in Booklist]
In Perfume Bay, a luxurious oasis just outside Los Angeles, pregnant Chinese women are pampered through the U.S. birth of precious progeny who will provide their parents with “a foothold in America.” Among the guests is factory-manager Scarlett Chen, sent to the U.S. to bear the son of her older, married lover, who’s also her employer.
As their long-distance relationship stagnates, Scarlett can’t risk losing her unborn child to Boss Yeung. She manages to commandeer the residence’s van for a late-night escape, then discovers a stowaway: Perfume Bay’s youngest and most rebellious resident, Daisy, who still believes she can find her missing boyfriend. The unlikely pair flee to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where accepting the kindness of strangers, clever bartering, peddling the “Chinese slider,” and catering a gay wedding keep them afloat until the inevitable confrontation converges at City Hall.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Vanessa Hua follows her intriguing short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016), with an astute debut novel that confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a 21st-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm.