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What We Were Promised (Hardcover)

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$26.00
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4 on hand, as of Nov 17 10:45pm
(Fiction)

Staff Reviews


A love triangle; a city on the verge of great wealth; a Chinese American family returning as expats to their homeland; a young woman trying to escape her rural village for the big city—this book is packed with drama and heart. Debut author Tan builds her world of nouveau-riche Shanghai with total authority, capturing not only the absurdity and glamor of a city going through exponential growth, but also how the history of the Cultural Revolution has shaped and still haunts the present day. Don’t even get me started on her characters. I cried just about anytime Zhen Hong came on the page. I loved Sunny, Rose, Karen, Little Cao, and my heart ached deeply for all the rest. This is a novel that I am impatient for others to read, so they can experience what I did.

— From Lillian

Description


Set in modern Shanghai, a debut by a Chinese-American writer about a prodigal son whose unexpected return forces his newly wealthy family to confront painful secrets and unfulfilled promises.

After years of chasing the American dream, the Zhen family has moved back to China. Settling into a luxurious serviced apartment in Shanghai, Wei, Lina, and their daughter, Karen, join an elite community of Chinese-born, Western-educated professionals who have returned to a radically transformed city.

One morning, in the eighth tower of Lanson Suites, Lina discovers that a treasured ivory bracelet has gone missing. This incident sets off a wave of unease that ripples throughout the Zhen household. Wei, a marketing strategist, bows under the guilt of not having engaged in nobler work. Meanwhile, Lina, lonely in her new life of leisure, assumes the modern moniker taitai-a housewife who does no housework at all. She is haunted by the circumstances surrounding her arranged marriage to Wei and her lingering feelings for his brother, Qiang. Sunny, the family's housekeeper, is a keen but silent observer of these tensions. An unmarried woman trying to carve a place for herself in society, she understands the power of well-kept secrets. When Qiang reappears in Shanghai after decades on the run with a local gang, the family must finally come to terms with the past and its indelible mark on their futures.

From a silk-producing village in rural China, up the corporate ladder in suburban America, and back again to the post-Maoist nouveaux riches of modern Shanghai, What We Were Promised explores the question of what we owe to our country, our families, and ourselves.


About the Author


Lucy Tan grew up in New Jersey and has spent much of her adult life in New York and Shanghai. She received her B.A. from New York University and her M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was awarded the 2016 August Derleth Prize. Her fiction has been published in journals such as Asia Literary Review and Ploughshares, where she was winner of the 2015 Emerging Writer's Contest. This is her first novel.

Praise For…


Longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize

An Amazon 'Best Book of the Month for July' Pick

A Barnes & Noble Discover Pick

A Goodreads Recommended 'July New
Release'

Named one of PopSugar's "Must Reads Books that
will make July Fly By"

Named one of "60 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018"by Huffington Post

Named one of the "10 Most Anticipated
Novels of the Summer" by The Every Girl

One of Refinery29's Best Books of 2018


"What We Were
Promised
glows through its intimate, skillful prose. Tan's debut
is a beautiful reckoning with the ever-changing definition of "home" - what it
means to have, lose and find family again."—USA Today

""Charming debut novel. . . . Through a
set of fascinating characters, Tan delivers a compelling story that raises
questions about assimilation, family dynamics, and the personal reverberations
of globalization."—National Book Review

"Dramatic and deeply moving, this would be perfect Oscar
material."—Crystal Hana Kim, Washington Post

"Winner of Ploughshares' Emerging
Writer award, Lucy Tan draws an astute portrait of a staid family thrown into
disarray in this assured first novel. She does not explore the Tolstoyan adage
of unhappy families, but rather throws a stone into the still pool of carefully
balanced domesticity. With its measuring of expectation against reality, What We Were Promised showcases
Tan's sharp eye for the intricacies of human relationships."—Shelf Awareness

"Fans of Kevin
Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians series will especially enjoy What We Were
Promised.
"—Refinery29

"A tightly crafted debut wrought with the
measured voice of an expert craftsperson, Lucy Tan's WHAT WE WERE PROMISED is
an exquisite exploration of class, family and self."—Bookreporter

"A luminous family saga"—Entertainment Weekly

"Intriguing debut
novel. Set in Shanghai, made empathic with a multigenerational family saga,
embellished with timeless class conflict, this story entertains and
enlightens."—Christian Science Monitor

"The ultimate message
of What We Were Promised is one all young, millennial readers can
relate to."—Bustle

"As the narrative
jumps across decades and continents, it throws the rural villages and urban
skylines, as well as the lives of the locals and aloof expatriates, into sharp
relief. . . . All the while, Tan asks what it means to belong-to a person or a
place."—Time

"Against a
contemporary global backdrop, made empathic with a multigenerational family
saga, embellished with timeless servant/master (and mistress) class conflict,
Tan's debut will be entertaining - and enlightening - to savvy cosmopolitan
readers throughout the summer and beyond."—Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

"Fans of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians series will especially enjoy What We Were Promised, which takes place among a similar social set."—Refinery 29

"Lucy Tan is an
author to watch"—Amazon Book Review

"This book boasts a
very memorable cast of characters... A compelling, sensitive and thoughtful debut
that is sure to move you."—Afoma Umesi

"With its measuring of expectation against
reality, What We Were Promised establishes Tan as a new talent
with a sharp eye for the intricacies of human relationships."—Shelf Awareness

"Tan's novel
will strike a chord with anyone who looks to the future with uncertainty."—My Domaine

"For book clubs that
love reading about complicated family dynamics and transitional periods, this
book will provide fodder for great conversations—Bookish

"A compelling story
of class, culture, regret, and anxiety about the road not taken."—Modern Mrs. Darcy

"From fitting in culturally, family dynamics, and self-worth, the story
will resonate with anyone who is uncertain and fearful about their future."—Women.com

"Readers may identify
with one or more of the characters as they deal with historic cultural norms
and modern reality—Forsyth Woman

"Tan's talent as a storyteller clearly shines through her strong plot
lines and characterization; readers will want to know more about each
well-crafted player in the story . . . . A novel of class, culture, and
expectations; readers who enjoyed works like Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians
will likely find Tan's surprising and down-to-earth tale an entertaining read."—Library Journal

"I read What
We Were Promised
in a state of enchantment, immediately drawn into the
longings, secrets and very human foibles of its finely-drawn cast of
characters. Both intimate and panoramic, Lucy Tan's debut is a revealing
consideration of modern China as well as a thrilling discovery of the
generations-long secrets between two families. Compassionate and heartbreaking,
funny and wise, local and universal, What We Were Promised marks the
arrival of an inspiring new voice."—Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams and The Immortalists

"Lucy Tan brings to
vibrant life the self-made, newly cosmopolitan Zhens, who have gone from the
tea fields and silk factories of small town China to the luxury high rises of
Shanghai in one generation. Abounding in insight and deftly told, What We Were
Promised
is a story both sweeping and intimate, as this most modern of
families discovers they must confront their past in order to find their future.
"—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me

"What We Were Promised is a big beautiful novel. Lucy
Tan's dazzling debut grapples with the persistence of the past, the
inevitability of the present, and the difficulty of balancing individuality
with community."—Hannah Pittard, author of Visible Empire and Listen to Me

"In What We Were Promised,
Tan skillfully brings to life the issues of modern day China and
Shanghai. It is an immigrant story but one that also delves into the
subject of going back to one's homeland. Tan humanizes each and every one
of her characters. There is also depth to how the stories of past and
present are interwoven. As a reader I felt that I was in good hands."—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

"What
We Were
Promised is like being let into the heads of the characters in a
C-drama... From its first page the novel promises a mix of emotion and intellect,
plot and cultural critique, and it delivers. These characters are deeply
understood and deeply felt, and the conflicts they get themselves into will
keep you up at night turning pages. By the end of What We Were Promised you
will agree that the real promise belongs to its debut author. Put Lucy Tan on
your literary radar now."—Matthew Salesses, author of The Hundred-Year Flood

"A
quietly brilliant book, and a truly singular debut."—Arna Bontemps Hemenway, award-winning author of Elegy on Kinderklavier

"A
beautifully rendered debut with vivid characters who will stay with readers
long after the last satisfying page."—Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts

"The magnificence and
splendor of modern Shanghai come to life in Lucy Tan's debut novel."—Palm Beach Post

"If you love
explorations of the American dream transplanted in Shanghai, generational
sagas, and the lives of the newly rich and confused, read What We Were
Promised
by Lucy Tan."Lillian Li, author of Number One Chinese Restaurant

"What We Were
Promised
explores the question of what we owe to our country, our families, and
ourselves." (—Five Spot Green Living

"a beautifully
written, evocative and provocative narrative."—All-About Romance

"Status, family
dynamic, and gender roles plague the characters and they must ponder, what
'they owe to themselves, each other, and their country."—Women.com

"It has plenty of
literary heft and timely social commentary, but it's also a thoroughly
enthralling and deeply moving novel"—Isthmus

"addicting books to read if you loved Crazy Rich
Asians"—Hello Giggles

"an elegant debut novel"—Newark Star Ledger
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316437189
ISBN-10: 0316437182
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: July 10th, 2018
Pages: 336
Language: English