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Paper Wife

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  21,369 ratings  ·  1,422 reviews

From the bestselling author of Yellow Crocus comes a heart-wrenching story about finding strength in a new world.

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife.

On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl n

Kindle Edition, 293 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Lake Union Publishing
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Eve I realize this question is old, but maybe others have the same question.

My husband is of Chinese heritage and I was raised near San Francisco. This i…more
I realize this question is old, but maybe others have the same question.

My husband is of Chinese heritage and I was raised near San Francisco. This is fairly historically accurate for the immigrant experience for the Chinese who came to America via Angel Island. If you care to, I highly recommend the PBS documentary Chinese Immigrants And The Gold Rush. Also, looking into the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 would provide more depth. The idea of "paper sons" is something I've learned a great deal of through my time in San Francisco's Chinatown and the museums there, but not much is said about there being paper wives. Stanford published a paper about the immigration issues facing Chinese wives during this time period titled "A 'Vital Question of Self-Preservation': Chinese Wives, Merchants, and American Citizens Caught in the 1924 Immigration Act" which seems to substantiate the events in this novel. The PDF of that article is freely available if you Google the title.

As far as cultural sensitivity, this is harder for me to offer an opinion on as I am not Chinese and my husband's family is from Mandarin-speaking Northern China which is different from the Cantonese-speaking south in not only language, but also in customs. China is a huge country, much too big to be represented in a book like this. However, the way certain customs is described is accurate to a lot customs and culture that encompass most of China, especially since unification. I have brought up a few concepts that I wasn't sure about to my husband and his view is that these could very well be accurate and are not at all offensive.

Hopefully this is a helpful contribution!(less)

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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This book drew me in from the first page and didn't release me until the last - even then, I didn't really want it to end.

The novel begins in 1923 in China. Already, that has my interest as I love historical fiction books with the added bonus of life and traditions in China thrown in. I was hooked.

Mei Ling's sister was to become the "paper wife" of a widower with one small son (whom he has yet to meet) who will be living in California. When her sister becomes very ill just before she is to leave
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, books-i-own
A beautiful story set in the 1920's where a Chinese woman, Mei Ling journeys to America with her husband, a widower and his 2 year old son. There is danger all around, for if American officials discover that Mei Ling is a "paper wife" traveling under another woman's name, she could be sent back in disgrace. What's more, what will her new husband think if he realizes that Mei Ling isn't the woman he was supposed to marry?

The Americans have changed their laws in order to restrict Chinese men from
Kathryn in FL
An Engaging Story of Love and Loyalty in all its Splendor!

Ibrahim delivers another solid read based on history with rich characters living in challenging times. I loved a earlier read. "Yellow Crocus" and now she has enriched her readers lives with "Paper Wife". I struggled with my rating because I would have liked to see her relationship with her husband to continue further but the ending was perfect and it was a satisfying finish.

Mei Ling's sister is set to marry a Chinese man living in Americ
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was a wonderful book. I really enjoy Laila Ibrahim's writing. I loved the first book I read by her, Yellow Crocus. This story has similar pacing.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this story. Some of them were more well-rounded than others, but I still enjoyed hearing their stories. A couple of questions were left open, so you don't know everything you want to about all of them, but you know them all well enough.

I would have given the story 5 stars except for a couple of minor thi
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife. Set in early 1920's, California, Mei Ling is forced to protect her fragile marriage and her children by making decisions that will have a life long effect.

Easy read, good historical fiction story that would be appropriate for younger teens.

Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooksiown
When Mei Ling's sister gets ill, Mei Ling takes her sisters place to become a paper wife for her new husband Kai Li who is taking her and his son Bo back home to California. Will she survive and adapt to her new home while having a happy family? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good read and my final read for 2019. If you enjoy historical fiction about Chinese american immigrants and surviving in a new land, then be sure to check this book out at your local library and whereve
Amie's Book Reviews
With immigration currently being a hot button issue in the United States and many other countries around the world, the publication of this book could not be more timely.

Although this story begins ninety years ago in 1923, there are many alarming similarities between the discrimination faced by immigrants during that time period and the discrimination faced by those who have chosen to emigrate to the United States in modern times.

Mei Ling was happily living out her young life in China when the
Maya B
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but a very slow read in my opinion. I felt the characters needed a lot more depth. This is my least favorite read by this author
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Paper Wife' by Laila Ibrahim is a good teen story about a Chinese woman who immigrates to San Francisco in 1923. The book describes how a young woman takes on the challenges of accepting changes not of her choosing but that are necessary for survival. She is lucky her temperament and education gives her inner strength because initially she has no choices about her life except that of acceptance.

Mei Ling and her family were once comfortable in a large house in Guangzhou, China, but war and fami
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but very unrealistic. Kind of disappointing
DNF 14%. The time period and main character are potentially interesting, but I just don’t think I’m a fan of Ibrahim’s writing, this being my second book of hers.
Aja: The Narcoleptic Ninja
This was a quick and engaging read. I enjoyed it, but I wanted more. There were a lot of secrets and things in the book to create tension, but most of it came to light without too much conflict. I wanted a little more character development, a little more of the backstory and motives for some of the characters, etc. It was a good read, but I wanted more.
Dawn Michelle
It is difficult to review a book like Paper Wife because there is just so much there and any review would have to include spoilers and I am not that kind of review writer [typically]. So I am trying to think of a way to encourage you to read this lovely book without giving anything away. If you read the blurb on Goodreads, it does just that, so I encourage you to NOT do that. I was so glad that I didn't look at that until I was more than halfway in and already knew some of the stuff that they sp ...more
Stephanie Anze
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mei Ling comes from a family of very modest means in a village in China. To ensure the welfare of their daughter and that of the family, a marriage is arranged to a California business man. Jah Jeh, Mei Ling's older sister, is supposed to be the bride but on the morning that she is to leave, she gets sick. To preserve the honor of the family with the matchmaker, Mei Ling takes her sister's place. She weds a stranger, takes the identity of his deceased wife and becomes his paper wife. As Mei Ling ...more
Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim is a must read for fans of Lisa See and Amy Tan. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Mei Ling!
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!

This book deserves all 5 Stars! I really enjoyed this book and could not put it down. A beautifully written story. Laila, you've got a winner with this one!
Donna J
Nov 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Just okay..not as great as I had wished

I read & listened to ‘Paper Wife’ because I adore every book from Laila Ibrahim! Yet I couldn’t help but feel I was reading “Shanghai Girls” another author, yet about 10 hours less and less details. It was so close to the same story line, but different time..matchmaker involved in lives & the Chinese girl being sent to Angel Island in San Francisco to the same husband type..always say they have money but have none..and a pregnancy. The difference here was
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In 1923, Mae Ling , second sister born in the year of the dragon, lives with her family, reduced in size and circumstances, in a village in China. When a matchmaker comes, her parents accept a match for her sister. It is not to be and Mei Ling must take her place and travels to America as the wife of a widower – his paper wife.

The months-long voyage is difficult, only to arrive at Angel Island to see if she will be accepted, with her husband's son, by immigration. While detained there, she meets
Mar 17, 2019 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook-read
Picked this up because Nancy Wu is one of my favorite narrators…BUT
DNF- I can’t deal with how this author makes her historical characters have contemporary ideas, values, morals, and other traits. In this book, a rural country teen girl of Chinese descendent (brand new Communist China no less) emigrates to the USA in the early 1900s and her inner voice, her education, and her world views are comparable to a modern woman. Not buying the malarkey….

The concept is great & the story interesting (the
Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)
This was quite an interesting story about a young woman marrying a man she doesn't know and leaving her home in China to make a life in the United States. From the first page, I was fascinated by Mei Ling's life and engaged with her story. I liked the growth that she showed and her determination in overcoming adversity in America and making a new life with her new family. The only issue I had was that I thought the author didn't quite go far enough with the relationship development between Mei L ...more
Mary Ann
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a simple, book without nuance in its language, plot, and characters-quite predictable. It might be okay for young teens who have never read anything about Chinese immigration and settlement in the U.S. Glad this was a Kindle freebie.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.25/5 stars

I really enjoyed "Paper Wife." This novel provides such realistic, or what I think is realistic, insight and emotion into what it was like to be what is termed a "paper wife."

A paper wife, or paper son, daughter, etc., is someone who is essentially sold by their family to a husband, or another family. In this novel, you meet a young woman who is sold to be married. She does not meet her husband until she has just married him. They end up travelling from southern China to the United
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This was a well paced book, with interesting historical details. I enjoyed the characters, there wasn’t a lot of development but I liked who they were. Towards the end there was a bit more action that I thought could have been utilized more throughout to liven up it up a bit. But it was a nice book about an immigrant family from China and their daily activities. Not every book needs to have a scooby doo ending with action sequences. I particularly enjoyed the beginning with detail about immigrat ...more
Candace Arnold
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Laila Ibrahim is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. This story is pristine in every way. Highly recommend.
Ashley Ethan
Apr 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle-unlimited
This book was hard to put down.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel for my book club. I didn't even know it existed before they presented it as one of the choices. I'm glad it was chosen, as I enjoyed reading it. The experience was enhanced by Laila Ibrahim chatting with my book club on Skype.

The premise reminded me of 90 Day Fiancé, as it was about a woman from another country going to America to marry someone she barely knew. She didn't know what to expect and was also deceived upon arrival. I liked how she forged a life for herself once she
This is a very simply told tale of a Chinese immigrant to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century.

Mei Ling is married off to Kai Li in a twist of fate and a matter of a single day and sets off on the long journey from her village in China to California with her new husband who she knows nothing about.

Getting into America seems more of a challenge than the journey and how things were done then is detailed. Non European immigrants were detained in Angel Island, sometimes for m
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about a marriage (arranged by a matchmaker in China) which develops into a relationship of love and respect.

A Paper Wife was a common practice in the 1920's when the Chinese were immigrating to the US. The women would take on the name and history of another in order to go to the US as a wife. It was a complicated process which I found very interesting.

The author demonstrates the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that these women had to go through.

Mei Ling, the Paper Wife, was trav
There be dragons! Mei Ling was born during the year of the dragon and proved to be a strong fierce woman.

In the 1920's, Mei Ling was married to a complete stranger and moved to San Francisco under his first wife's name. Her assumed name was not the only deception that shadowed her new life.

The book was quite interesting. I enjoyed learning about the immigrant experience that Mei Ling shared with many Chinese.
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My education and experience in multiracial, developmental psychology and attachment theory provide ample fodder for my novels. My passion for early childhood education, child birth and religious education are reflected in my writing.

I was the founder and director of Woolsey Children's School where I had first hand experience loving children that were not my own. There are scenes in Yellow Crocus t

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