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Happy Family: A Novel
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Happy Family: A Novel

3.11  ·  Rating Details ·  268 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
When Hua Wu arrives in New York City, her life seems destined to resemble that of countless immigrants before her. She spends her hectic days in a restaurant in Chinatown, and her lonesome nights in a noisy, crowded tenement, yearning for those she left behind. But one day in a park in the West Village, Hua meets Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, a two-year-old ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Sep 25, 2009 sarah rated it did not like it
What a disappointment. The characters weren't very deep and neither was the plot. Like the main character, I am an immigrant to the U.S., however, I did not find Hua, the main character, relatable or believable at all. The only reason why I finished it was because I was stuck on a plane with nothing else to read.
Feb 11, 2015 Bethany rated it it was ok
Good premise but then went nowhere.
Jul 02, 2008 Sharon rated it it was amazing
I hesitate to give 5 stars since I'm sure this isn't the best-book-ever classic, but what the heck, I liked it and thought it was well-written. I thought there were interesting structures and contrasts; the novel was like a puzzle that made me think about how all the ideas fit together. BTW, this book is also being discussed at:

Although I think _Happy Family_ was more about the characters (and in particular, the development of Hua, the main character) tha
Jul 18, 2012 Parag rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
Shelves: apa, fiction
I usually don't write long reviews, but this book inspired me to be full of myself.

I opened the book, and got through the first section in a casual sitting. It wasn't immediately compelling: the writing didn't do much for me, the characters weren't believable, and the dialogue didn't pop. By the time I got to the end of this thing, I realize that it was little more than a story idea that the author didn't have the tools or chops to develop very well at best, and an awful fetishization and object
Martin Rowe
May 11, 2012 Martin Rowe rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: Wendy Lee works at my publishing company. I hadn't read her book before I hired her, and I wouldn't have not hired her if the book stunk. Thankfully, HAPPY FAMILY is marvelously well-executed work of fiction. The story is a very quiet one until the last thirty pages where it explodes with a bang all the more forceful and shocking because of the understated and carefully observed narrative of the preceding two hundred pages. One of the distinctive pleasures of the book is how expertly ...more
Jan 15, 2009 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
While I enjoyed the characters in this book, and the insight into immigration from China, as well as the life of a young girl in China, the story, ultimately, was depressing.
Sep 05, 2009 Ivy rated it it was ok
Shelves: sold-or-gifted
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2009 Regan rated it it was ok
Kind of a dumb story. It didn't really go anywhere.
Jul 04, 2008 TK rated it really liked it
Recommended to TK by: Wendy Lee
Adoption is a beautiful and noble calling. Yet, it is imperfect, with biological parents, their extended families, and even whole nations left to mourn to loss of that child to some degree or another. At least, this is one of the points Wendy Lee elegantly and politely makes in Happy Family.

I truly enjoyed this novel. Lee's writing is gentle and fluid. The first-person narration -- Hua is a young woman recently-immigrated to New York City from a provicial town in China -- captures the point-of-v
Laura K
Jul 09, 2016 Laura K rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2009 Becka rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Evander Lomke
Dec 05, 2012 Evander Lomke rated it it was amazing
A truth (which should be universally acknowledged) is that there is a cluster of elements binding all young people arriving in the U.S.: apprehension, anticipation, the allure of material and political freedom. There are often considerable barriers of language to be overcome; personal boundaries of adaptation and assimilation; cultural lines that are to be crossed and those to remain un-crossed. If a new persona is assumed, what might the peer group say? Often-unspoken forms of banishment and ...more
Apr 03, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
About an immigrant girl, Hua Wu, from China whose grandmother worked
hard to pay her way to America in hopes of a better life. She works in
a dead end job at a Chinese restaurant, lives in a crowded and noisy
boarding house in Chinatown, hardly any friends, pretty lonely life.
She meets and befriends a woman, Jane, a white woman who has adopted a
girl from China, and eventually becomes the girl's nanny. Hua is a
little in awe, a little envious of Jane's seemingly perfect life,
living in a West Village
Feb 19, 2009 Pamela rated it it was ok
Shelves: china, adoption
Two stars is about all I can give this book. I am not sure if I was supposed to like the main character, Hua, or not, but I didn't, and found it very hard to sympathize with her. If the act she committed is because of her displacement from China and family, I found it hard to swallow. Most of the time, she sounded very American, and not much like a Chinese immigrant "fresh off the boat" at all.

The whole plot did not seem very believable to me, either. Well, objectively, I can see this happening,
Oct 03, 2010 Zuzia rated it liked it
Hua Wu arrives in New York City, she comes to seek a better life. She wants to raise money to take care of her grandmother, and leave her past behind. After being stuck in a dead-end job at a Chinese restaurant, she meets Jane Templeton and her adopted Chinese daughter. Soon, she becomes her nanny and finds herself wanting to join the seemingly close-knit family.
I didn't particularly love this book, although it is well written. Hua Wu seems very underdeveloped. I was particularly annoyed with he
Aug 18, 2013 Lin rated it really liked it
the author did a great job putting to paper what most of us can't describe in words. i felt many emotions for the main character while reading this story, but what i felt mostly (sadness, insecurity, and hope) were real, and it takes a talented writer to make a reader feel so acutely the emotions of her main character.

i just found this story sad. sometimes people make wrong choices, sometimes people just have hard luck. i think hua was subject to both, and her loneliness and desperation in seeki
Jun 04, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in other cultures
As one of the reviews on the back cover states, “A beautifully written portrait of a young Chinese immigrant finding her way in New York City.” This book addresses the one-child law of China and the phenomenon of American families adopting Chinese babies, all within the context of this very personal narrative by a young woman who immigrates from China and struggles to find a place for herself. I loved this small book – a quick read in one day! I'd give it 4 1/2 stars but the rating doesn't have ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Ron rated it really liked it
A young woman emigrates from China to New York City and, feeling alone and isolated, finds herself hired as the nanny to a Chinese baby adopted from an orphanage by a West Village couple. The more Hua learns about her employers, the more attached she becomes to the idea of caring for little Lily, until things reach a breaking point.

Some people would argue that not enough "happens" in this story, in the sense that Lee doesn't draw out a lot of suspense, but that's the point -- this story isn't dr
Jessica Larson-Wang
Feb 20, 2009 Jessica Larson-Wang rated it liked it
Interesting premise, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. I wasn't too fond of the end of the book, but it definitely gets credit for effort. The topic of international adoption doesn't come up often in fiction, and the story of a young Chinese immigrant working as a nanny in the house of a family with an adopted Chinese daughter is quite intriguing. I'd like to read Wendy Lee's next book, I feel she has potential.
Aug 28, 2008 Penelope rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2008 Allison rated it it was amazing
This is a truly humbling story of a Chinese immigrant. Often, we take for granted others experiences thinking because he or she is from a different culture we cannot relate to them. This novel proves we are all connected. Happy Family brings to the surface the idea that appearances are deceiving and perhaps true "happiness" is unobtainable. This is a must read. I was a bit disappointed by the ending, but felt there was no other way to appropriately end the novel.
Sunny Shore
Apr 27, 2009 Sunny Shore rated it it was amazing
This book was surprisingly great...I hadn't heard anything about it and basically plucked it from the New Book shelf at the library. Hua is a character who literally walks out of the story and talks to you. Her narrative is real and gives away so much of who she is, without overdoing the details. The writer, Wendy Lee, is truly gifted.
Read it. You will love it.
Jun 19, 2012 Kara rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, class, grief
As many people have said, this book is quiet. It is also very contemporary, and surprising. It's thrilling to read a book where every major character is a woman or girl, and pleasing to follow their experiences with issues that affect women: international adoption, China's one-child policy, immigration, and women of color working as nannies for white families. Excellent reading.
Jun 06, 2011 Marian rated it liked it
I liked this book, about a young Chinese immigrant who finds herself as a nanny for a privileged white family with an adopted Chinese daughter. It was an interesting concept and I would have liked to see her go further with it. It almost felt like a long short story. This would make a good book club pick.
Nov 13, 2012 Gwen rated it liked it
Beautifully written. Sparse and lyrical, sad tale of newly emigrated young Chinese woman. The story falters, particularly at the end, and I never really felt much of a connection between the main character (Hua) and her charge (Lily), but the writing style is so wonderful and Hua's story so achingly sad, I devoured this short book in about a day and a half.
Mar 05, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
The first chapter, a letter to the little girl the main character nannied, drew me into this book. Although parts of it disappointed me, mostly choices of the main character's sprinkled through the book (I didn't think they matched the person the author had created her to be), and it didn't end as I had hoped, it was a good read.
Nov 06, 2008 Amberly rated it really liked it
I had never heard of this book before, it caught my eye as I walked past it in the library. I loved the way she wrote, some of the wording of the sentences was so pretty. The main character was kind of strange I decided and there were a lot of unexpected turns in the story, especially in the end. For the most part it was a good book though.
I would actually rate this between a 2 and a 3. It was an interesting read, but my impression was of what this book could have been rather than what it was. There were moments when I thought it could be more, but finally it succumbed to too many cliches, and a cut off ending that seemed a defeat not a completion.
Jun 19, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Susan by: Jae Ran
This is one of the best books - maybe the ONLY good book dealing with the topic of Chinese adoption. Told from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant who comes across an adoptive family in New York City, it's beautifully written, poignant and true feeling. Honest, complex, layered, and does not shy away from difficult truths.
Dec 12, 2008 Barb rated it it was amazing
This compelling novel told the story of a young illegal Chinese immigrant woman who is looking for a way to belong and find family here in the USA. Thinking she has found it with a Caucasian couple who has adopted a Chinese baby girl, she winds up on a roller-coaster ride when things don't turn out as she thinks they should.
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Wendy Lee is the author of the novels The Art of Confidence (Kensington), Across a Green Ocean (Kensington), and Happy Family (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic). Happy Family was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2008 by Booklist and awarded an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies.

A graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, Lee h
More about Wendy Lee...

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