Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Expatriates” as Want to Read:
The Expatriates
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Expatriates

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  11,906 ratings  ·  1,389 reviews
Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Viking
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Expatriates, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Sarah I think the author left it unresolved on purpose. To make us continue wondering. And to make the point that people in these situations might never kno…moreI think the author left it unresolved on purpose. To make us continue wondering. And to make the point that people in these situations might never know- just have to go on wondering. (less)
Robyn I think there is a resolution, that the child was abducted and was never heard of again. Happens all of the time in real life, hence the reason for sh…moreI think there is a resolution, that the child was abducted and was never heard of again. Happens all of the time in real life, hence the reason for shows like Unsolved Mysteries. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,906 ratings  ·  1,389 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Expatriates
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

In this compelling story, we meet 3 American expat women in Hong Kong whose lives entwine due to an incident. As cosmopolitan as the life may sound, it can be riddled with cultural and economic challenges, personal struggles and sometimes, tragedies.

We meet Mercy, Margaret and Hilary. Mercy, a recent grad, is responsible for the incident that has left her with self destructive behaviours fulfilling the prophecy of bad luck following her.
Margaret, mot
Angela M
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

The writing in this novel is the kind of writing that gave me the feeling I was there among this group of people , right there while they were interacting with one another, right there when the author describes what they think and feel and I thought many times that I might feel the same way under the same circumstances. I don't mean the descriptive kind that paints a picture in your mind of what the place looked like but rather gives you a sense of who these women are .

There are the ex
Diane S ☔
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was slow to warm up to this book, at one point putting it aside. Coming back to it a few weeks later, I found myself in a much better place to appreciate what Lee has accomplished with this novel. Until now, the only expats I had read about were Hemingway and his hard drinking partying crew, but they were expats by choice. This book follows three women who lives connect and affect each other in different ways. Except for Mercy, the youngest, a Korean American who had attended Columbia who come ...more
Iris P
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris P by: Robert Blumenthal
The Expatriates

"Doesn't every city contain some version of yourself that you can finally imagine?"
Margaret, a character from The Expatriates


I love it when an author uses a geographical setting as the focal point of a story and in Janice Y.K. Lee's elegant new novel, The Expatriates, Hong Kong certainly plays a major role.

For the expat American community featured in this novel, the former Briti
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2016
Surprisingly good! I was afraid this story centering around 3 women living as American expatriates in Asia would devolve into a soap-opera'ish melodrama, but Lee managed to avoid that slippery slope in telling her tales. There is Mercy, an American-born Korean and Ivy League graduate whose every ill-advised move ends in disaster; Margaret, the wife of a multi-national company executive and mother of three who is trying to survive the unimaginable; and Hilary, an abandoned wife who is contemplati ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I loved the very beginning and the very end of The Expatriates. Sandwiched in the middle was much I liked too. Janice Y. K. Lee set her book amongst the expat American community in Hong Kong. The story focuses on the intertwined lives of three women, who are each experiencing very difficult times in their lives: Margaret who is a mother of three and recently experienced a heart wrenching event in her life, Mercy who is a young American of Korean descent who seems to have a knack for bad judgment ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thousands of miles away from home, in Hong Kong, a group of very different women find themselves in a world of women basically left on their own, at home, with a plethora of all that money can buy at their fingertips.

Money can buy all the beautiful clothes you can veil yourself in, beautiful cars, drivers, large, gorgeous homes to decorate, inexpensive help to cook and clean for you, drive your children to all of their activities and watch them while you attend any number of activities, from tea

Three American expat women find themselves in Hong Kong, coming from vary different backgrounds, living three different lives. In a slow-moving build-up, the three women connect, driven by different forms of loneliness and a terrible, heartbreaking loss. An inconceivable tragedy!

Their lives are filled with endless parties, domestic helpers, shopping trips, lunches, tennis, children and more expats to fill up a frivolous, competitive, superficial existence in a high-density city.
Expats become
Elyse  Walters
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Three very different American women, (Mercy, Margaret, and Hilary), are all living in same
expat community in Hong Kong.

These characters are recognizable in that they are each struggling with fears, or grief, or a
heartbreaking loss. They make choices that can't be reversed....the type of life consequences
that either strengths their sense of self ...or haunts forever.

The storytelling is tender, and beautiful...and very visual:
"After a few hours by the pool, Margaret goes back to the room, whe
Jenna (still emerging from hiatus but still reading…!)
I've been holding off on reviewing this one as I waited to find some eloquent way to describe my feeling that this book was so solid and had such a seemingly broad appeal that I'd not hesitate to recommend it to anyone: it's like that friend or colleague you can count on to do a task or a favor, when the task/favor is giving pure Good Read.

I never did find a more eloquent way to say all this, but I decided it's probably enough to say that I think you're gonna like this book, and if you gave me
Connie G
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The Expatriates" revolves around the lives of three women who have moved from the United States to Hong Kong. Their lives have become intertwined due to several traumatic events. In the end, these shattered women support each other as they share the bond of love for their children. The novel is about loss, grief, forgiveness, marriage, motherhood, and the challenges that women face. The exotic setting of Hong Kong, and a look into the life of an expat added extra interest to the story. ...more
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, china, eastern-roots
"I look like someone you might be friends with, but I’m not. There’s a hole inside me, and I can’t fill it with other people, although I wish I could."

Three women, all in a different phase of their life and in dissimilar life situations, are experiencing the expatriate life in Hong Kong. The youngest is Mercy, an American born Korean and Columbia graduate, who is single, unemployed and still trying to find her way around. Hilary and Margaret are both married, the former childless and trying
A satisfying and incisive novel that frames the lives of three very different American women and the disjointed lives they come to lead after they move to Hong Kong. Margaret came with her children and corporate husband; Hildy joined hers, a lawyer and they both now live a life of ease. A car and driver, a housemaid, a cook, private schools for their children, nannies, tennis, lunch dates and vacations to Phuket. Mercy is single, younger and of Korean heritage whose intention to succeed like her ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
The setting of this book is Hong Kong, the characters a trio of American women who are part of its expatriate community. Each woman is dysfunctional in her way, bogged down by elements of loss, confusion, paralysis, or grief. Their individual stories are interesting, as is what happens when their paths cross. But I never felt close to any of the three, and the neatness of the ending still unsettles me.

I bought this book based on rave reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, People
Marina Sofia
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Wry, witty, sometimes acerbic observations of expat life, interactions between expats and locals, between the different 'types' of expats. The setting and the lifestyle were described to perfection. However, the stories of the three women themselves seemed a tad melodramatic or soap opera-ish, their development as characters unconvincing, while that sentimental ending of idealising motherhood as the solution to all problems... I think the whole expat/trailing spouse, lack of identity, re-entry p ...more
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5) Three American women grapple with motherhood and identity in Hong Kong’s expatriate community. Margaret and Mercy are linked by their Korean heritage and a family tragedy. I found them both to be very sympathetic characters, while Hilary is simply not as interesting. The last quarter of the book is particularly strong, as you wonder just how the connections between these three will pan out. The novel reminded me most of Jung Yun’s Shelter, which also contrasts Asian and American values and ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Janice Y. K. Lee is a wonderful storyteller. She gets into the heads of her protagonists, three very different women who have found themselves living in Hong Kong and find their lives entwined. Mercy, a young Korean American Columbia graduate, who never feels as if she quite fits in and that she is a harbinger of bad luck, came hoping such a radical change would improve her life. Hilary and Margaret are what is known as "trailing spouses," wives of men whose careers have relocated them to Hong K ...more
Wendy Cosin
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked it okay, but didn't find any of the three main characters particularly likable. I might have liked Margaret okay if she had worked through the aftermath of tragedy with her family rather than completely withdrawing from them and pretending she was the only one who was suffering. Or if she had taken even a sliver of responsibility for the tragedy on to herself, rather than piling all the blame on someone else. Maybe this is really the way in which a person would react to such an event, bu ...more
MaryannC. Book Freak
This was a tremendous read! This was my second novel by Janice Y.K. Lee and like her first, this one did not disappoint. The Expatriates settles around the lives of three women, Mercy, Margaret and Hilary, all who live or cross paths within an exclusive expat society in Hong Kong. Each woman's story was fascinating and well paced. I was totally engrossed with the details of expat life in another country and this was oftentimes hard to put down! Recommended. ...more
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars: This novel is a book club pick, and not one that was on my radar. That’s what’s good about book club, reading books you would not have chosen. THE EXPATRIATES is chick-lit about three women who are living in Hong Kong in a small expat community. The story is told from the three protagonists point of view.

Mercy is a twenty-something American-Korean who moved to Hong Kong to try and jump-start her floundering life. She graduated from Columbia, is book smart, but seems to make all the wr
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this one 5 stars. I can't put my finger on what grabbed me so much about this book but it may be that the characters were so well-developed and so believable. I don't typically like stories about motherhood but this one went well beyond that theme. I'll be thinking about it for a while and maybe will come back and write more when I've had a chance to think it through.

(I am a page/percentage counter--not this time. I was on a plane and often get restless with whatever I'm reading and
Julian Lees
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed THE EXPATRIATES. Given that I was born and raised in Hong Kong I was interested to see how accurately Janice Lee depicted HK. She got it spot on.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
In less capable hands, it might have ended up as a Lifetime movie. However this author is amazingly adept at describing insights into what it is like to live abroad, class struggles, insecurities and desires of women at different phases of their lives. I was immediately interested in each character's story and the plot didn't turn out the way I had imagined. But, what really made the book for me was the ending. Thank God! I don't understand the mean, jealous and competitive nature of some women. ...more
Nnenna | scsreads
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've always wondered what it would be like to live abroad and this latest novel from Janice Y. K. Lee gave me a peek into the expat life. The story centers around three women: Mercy, a twenty-something struggling to find her purpose in life, Margaret, a mother of three who has a handsome husband and an envy-inducing life, and Hilary, who is desperate to become a mother herself. Lee weaves these lives together as each woman explores her own identity.

I found the setting and descriptions of expat c
Britta Böhler
What I liked most about the book where the parts dealing with the detached and often snobby expatriate life and those giving a glimpse of Hongkong. The book is well written, the prose quite crisp and to-the-point and the pacing keeps you going, but I had difficulties getting attached to any of the three female characters as they didnt seem to have much of a life beside being a wife and a mother which I found rather one-dimenional.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is not often that I take the time to actually write a review of a book. I frankly think that writing the review is taking time away from reading more books. But I loved this book SO much that I feel like I really have to take a moment to extoll it's virtues.

First: Janice is a beautiful writer. Her words are perfectly chosen, evocative, and never overwrought. It is a modern novel-very different from The Piano Teacher but equally brilliant.

Second: It's a story about Hong Kong expat women. I re
Beth Bonini
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Have you ever seen the Global Rich List calculator on the CARE website?
It lets you input your salary, and then shows you how that measures up globally. Even if you are paid modestly (ie, averagely) by UK standards, you will still discover that you are better off than 99% of the rest of the world. And what does this have to do with The Expatriates? In my opinion, quite a lot.

The Expatriates is about three American women who are living in Hong Kong. Margaret and Hil
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: korea
I am dumbfounded as to how to review this book properly. I simply can't.

It doesn't matter if the writing is good, or the story is engaging. Some things are too hard to bear for some people. This was one of those books that made me shiver with the presence of my worst waking nightmare. At the center of the novel, set in Hong Kong and Seoul, Korea, are three women, each American expatriates, two of varying Korean descent. There is a tragedy involving a child, and that loss deafens for me any othe
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Through the differing experiences of three women, Janice Y K Lee delves into expatriate life in Hong Kong and does so with an acute eye for the nuances of class, culture and race. She gets deep into the heart of an affluent community of Americans and their colonial lifestyle, but also deep into the hearts of the women themselves. Both a social satire and a moving exploration of motherhood, it’s a richly detailed and compelling tale, and the author seems to have made a quantum leap with this nove ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • An Excellent Choice: Panic and Joy on My Solo Path to Motherhood
  • Anatomy of a Soldier
  • Any Other Family
  • A Week to Remember
  • Kaleidoscope
  • The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor
  • My Singapore Lover
  • Private Life
  • Short Girls
  • One Way or Another
  • Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out
  • Little Concepts: A is for Apricat: Learn Your ABCs with These Deliciously Adorable Food  Critter Mash-Ups!
  • A Life Lost: The shocking true story
  • The Other Life
  • Pasta Wars
  • The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
  • The Possibilities
  • Bad Choices
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong, the child of Korean immigrants. She went to the United States for school and graduated from Harvard College with a degree in English and American Literature and Language.

After college she moved to New York and worked for several years as an editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines before getting an MFA from Hunter College and starting her first nove

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
20 likes · 6 comments
“Men strolled through life with a wallet in their pants, and women were saddled with children, the map, the bag, the half-empty water bottles. Resentment” 2 likes
“This is the Hong Kong curse that expat housewives talk about in hushed voices: the man who takes to Hong Kong the wrong way. He moves from an egalitarian American society, where he’s supposed to take out the trash every day and help with the dinner dishes, to a place where women cater to his every desire—a secretary who anticipates his needs before he does, a servant in the house who brings him his espresso just the way he likes it and irons his boxers and his socks—and the local population is not as sassy with the comebacks as where he came from, so, of course, he then looks for that in every corner of his life.” 2 likes
More quotes…