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The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage
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The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage

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3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Trumpeter
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Rhlibrary
Marriage today comes in many variations. In my late twenties and a newlywed myself, I’m a bit “traditional.” But what if I were divorced, facing middle age, and searching for love? What would a marriage look like to me then? For Ellen Graf, she took a chance and married a Chinese businessman, with a past of his own. He moved from China to her upstate New York farmhouse and so began their “unconventional” marriage. Despite the language barrier, a host of cultural misunderstandings and financial c ...more
Laura
This was a quiet, contemplative memoir that I think will stay with me for a long time. Most of all it is a story of mature love. Rather than young, heady, romantic love that feeds on excitement and novelty, the love between Ellen and Zhong-hua was clearly made of steadier stuff. As I read it, I often found myself thinking of First Corinthians and contemplating what love really means, particularly to these two people from very different cultural backgrounds. They often struggle (as much against d ...more
Bonnie
I'm impressed by the author's use of language. This memoir is slight in that not a lot happens (typical of many memoirs). But Graf keeps our interest with her sharp memories, sly sense of humor, obvious care for all characters involved and lovely sense of place. I felt like I was with them on many occasions, her descriptions were so vivid.
Her husband is a unique man, to these American eyes. I'm glad he met Graf because not too many American women would put up with some of his odd ideas. But G
...more
Charis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet
I have only read the first chapter but already I am in love with this book and appreciating the author. On page 2 she immediately caught me with these lines, "Educated by now in the trickeries of my heart, I knew I would not thrive alone, even though I am a solitary person who likes empty surroundings and complete quiet. My energy would spin around and around inside crying "Look!" and I might become crazy. I hankered after an imaginary companion to whom I could say "Good morning" or "Excuse me" ...more
Aly
I appreciated the glimpse Graf's story gave me into the differences between American and Chinese cultural norms, in terms of marriage and family life and gender roles. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to counteract my frustration at the situations that very clash of cultures created. Without a clear reason to root for the relationship, all I could do was wonder how Graf could stand to live in the life she made for herself. I just didn't get it.
Heidi
Graf's marital memoir is thought provoking and very authentic in its transparency. I am drawn to the intricacies of how couples weather the swirl of time and difficulties. Graf provides a unique window into her life and marriage with an interesting man who is also from China. They are worlds apart in some ways, but are so committed throughout their struggles that it is heartwarming to read about their journey.
ReneeB
I won this book here on Good Reads. I really enjoyed it. I really learned a lot about the Chinese culture. It was comical & sweet at times. I could relate to a lot that Zhong-hua went through medically. My father went through the same things.

I was a little surprised at the ending. It seemed so abrupt. I thought it would've ended differently.

But overall, I enjoyed it.
Jaynie
As a collector of memoirs I would rate this one above most others. It is such a sweet love story. The cultural differences between Ellen and Lu Zhong-hua add up to a lot of craziness between two eccentric people. I couldn't help but root for them the whole way and am curious about what their future holds.
Wendy
Amusing, entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking, though it felt a bit scattered. I read this in a continual state of mild surprise that the author was forever reacting to situations in ways so different from how I would.
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
Ellen Graf was a divorced, single mother and artist. She wasn’t having any luck with love, even after trying the personal ads. When a Chinese-American friend suggested fixing Ellen up with her brother, Lu Zhong-hua, who still lived in China, Ellen decided it’s worth a try.

Ellen flew to China to meet Zhong-hua and they decided to get married while she’s there, in spite of the fact that they’ve just met and neither speaks the other one’s language. After their marriage, Ellen has to return to the S
...more
Rachel
I thought this book was awesome! (And I'm a tough critic.) I liked that it was non-fiction, yet so far out of my experience it was surreal in some ways. I, too, found myself in awe of the author's easy sangfroid in navigating the maze of cultural misfires between her and her husband, and even more her forbearance in more life-and-death matters. But the way Ellen Graf writes, you don't immediately focus on HER experience, because she is not self-focused, even in the narrative of her own life. You ...more
Catherine
I was intrigued by the premise of Graf’s story. In a nutshell, this memoir outlines the unique introduction, the love that blossoms, and the coming together of Ellen and her husband Zhong-hua’s lives in upstate New York.

I admire her fortitude in sharing as much of her personal story as she does. Her experiences involving the ubiquitous cultural differences and confusions were enlightening and enriched the couple’s story by allowing the reader to view the balance of tolerance and meeting each oth
...more
Libraryscat
The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage written by Ellen Graf was a delightful read and I am grateful to the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program and Random House for providing me with the opportunity to read and review it. At its core, the book is the melding of two cultures.[return][return]When Ellen found herself 46 years old with only one child at home, she discovered she was lonely. Her Chinese friend offered for Ellen to marry her brother in China. Ellen took a huge ...more
Sandy
this is an entertaining and enriching story about the challenges that sometimes arise within cross-cultural marriages. Ellen Graf's chinese husband, Zhaing Hou (? can't remember spelling) is an endearing and excruciatingly annoying character who meets the challenges of living in America as if he were not here at all but still in China growing up under Mao. I lived with a chinese man several years older than Zhiang Hou and can attest to some of the often overwhelming and exasperating differences ...more
Marci
This book is a true story of one woman's marriage to a man from China. Because of my own marriage, I was very interested in reading this book and was able to relate to some of her situations, but mostly I was relieved that many of her situations did NOT apply to me. I started out enjoying the book, but then it seemed to get mired down and stuck in the mud and I wondered if the marriage was going to last. Sometimes the author waxed a little too poetic. The sentences became hard to read and unders ...more
Kathy
I enjoyed this book for lots of reasons. First of all, I was interested in China and learned a lot about the country and the reign of Mao Tse-tung. Second, the husband charmed me from the beginning, and though at first I didn't care much about the wife, I eventually really liked her as well. Finally, as a married woman, it's nice to watch from the inside as another couple struggles to make it work. The book is about an American Woman who decides to marry a man from China even though they do not ...more
Elizabeth Walker
I just finished reading this book for my monthly book club. I think it's an interesting book club book for the fact that it certainly provides a lot to talk about. The subtitle "A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage" is very telling of the nature of the book. Ellen Graf certainly lives a life very different from my own, making this story hard to identify with on a personal level. Many of us could not fathom ourselves in Ellens shoes which led to stimulating conversation.

Personally, I did not connect
...more
Wendy
I enjoyed the story. I can empathize with the author about how difficult it must be to learn to live and communicate with someone from a very different culture. Zhong-Hua is such an interesting person. He is very inspiring, and his creativity and thriftiness are astounding. I would have liked to see the author share more of herself. I felt that I got to know Zhong-Hua well and began to understand his thought process, but the author remained a mystery. It would have been helpful to hear more of h ...more
Kara Huggard
When I requested the Natural Laws of Good Luck, I was expecting a tender love story that explored the melding of two disparate cultures. I was not disappointed in this expectation. What I hadn't expected was that this book would be so dang funny. Several times I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of Zhong-hua, Ellen Graf's Chinese husband. Graf expertly describes the cultural clashes that occur when two people who barely know each other, who grew up on opposite sides of the world, and ...more
Echo Heron
Mar 09, 2013 Echo Heron rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: an editor looking for work
The blurbs on the back praise this as a wonderful love story. As I began reading, I was sure the dust jacket must have been placed on the wrong book, because the story I read is about a woman who seems to be stuck in the 60's, living hand to mouth in a wreck of a house. The house is falling apart, and winter is on it's way, so she decides to enter into what appears to be a loveless marriage to an extremely difficult, proud and arrogant man. I saw nothing loving in this absurd and abusive relati ...more
Angie
Another free giveaway from GoodReads "First Reads" program!

This book was like a slow, steady rain for me. Nothing too flashy, too dramatic or gripping....but a purposeful narrative about the mixing of cultures, compromises in relationships, and the pursuit of the things we want in life. At times I felt that Ellen (the author) was the only one giving, compromising, etc. and it frustrated me. But probably that was a result of this being a memoir told from her perspective. We don't know all the int
...more
Hannah Lynn
Loved this pithy, heartfelt memoir.
Kerri
The secondary title of this book, I think, really explains the book well(A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage). It was really interesting to see how two very different lives merge together and go about their daily lives, almost in two different worlds because of their different beliefs. The husband, Zhong-hua, just wanted to continue to do things as they were done in China, not really paying attention to the ways of American life. It was interesting to see how he dealt with employers, students, and ...more
Toni
Ellen Graf's memoir of her bi-cultural marriage is an eye-opener. It is a remarkable story. A touching tribute to two people from very different worlds and backgrounds (US and China) trying to minimize misunderstandings and make everything "ok". Made me see that we all must be open to new ways of looking at life and even though our history may color how we see it , we are not bound by that view.Personally, I may not have bent and flowed and adjusted as well as Ellen into new outlooks.
Linda
A quirky book about an improbable match. An American woman marries a Chinese man whom she barely knows. The clashes of personalities and of cultures makes this a fascinating read. She relates their lives together moving through every day occurrences, showing how both people look at a situation through different eyes. A really refreshing and thought-provoking view of the world. I would read other books by this author; the book is really well written, in my opinion.
Jennifer
After a brief courtship, an American artist marries a Chinese businessman who joins her out in the country with his sullen teen daughter in this memoir. I think she strives to be eccentric and spontaneous, and wanted this to read as a generous and loving account of culture clashes. Indeed, the cultural gaps are profound. The narrator is a disorganized writer. The disasters read as more tragic than comic, yet I could not avert my eyes from the wreckage.
Virginia
This is a very entertaining, interesting read about a sort-of-arranged marriage between two strong-minded people, an American artist and a Chinese business man, in a ramshackle home in up-state New York. Culturally, the pair are worlds apart and their efforts to make their life together work makes for an unusual love story.
Kenzie
What a story! This book made me laugh out loud several times, but I also was drawn into the struggles that Ellen and her husband faced. There were so many lost-in-translation moments, so many horrifying stories of the Cultural Revolution; I had to keep reading to see what happened next. The ending was surprisingly poetic, I thought.
Janet Ellner
Sep 19, 2011 Janet Ellner rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cultural anthropologists
What made it worth reading were the observant details of their culture clash (the author marries a man from China). The writing isn't great, but there's some clever wordplay that's also thought provoking. The narrative is sketchy in parts, which makes it feel like a draft of what could be a more meaningful story.
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AUTHOR BIO: Ellen Graf writes out of rural upstate New York where she lives with her husband Zhong-hua Lu. Her first book, The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage, was released by Shambhala publications on August 11, 2009, with the paperback due out on November 9, 2010. The book has been selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover New Authors promotion, Border’s Original Voice ...more
More about Ellen Graf...
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