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What we were promised
2018
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Summary
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. <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> <br>
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  Booklist Review

Sunny has been working as a housekeeper in Shanghai for five years but faces a predicament when she and her friend, Rose, are accused of stealing a bracelet from the Zhen family. It becomes clear that the Zhens prefer Sunny over Rose when they offer to hire her as their ayi, or full-time housemaid. The Zhens, a wealthy Chinese family, have settled in a luxury living complex in Shanghai after years of chasing the American dream. Wei, a quiet, high-achieving businessman, often neglects his family for his work. His wife, Lina, is a bored housewife who spends her days gossiping with other foreign wives and doing no housework at all. When Wei's younger brother, Qiang, comes back into their lives after decades away, he reminds them of past losses and unfulfilled desires, causing everyone to reevaluate what they've been doing for the good of their country, their family, and themselves. Tan's first novel is beautiful and compassionate as it explores how identity is reinvented and the importance of confronting the past to move into the future.--Park, Emily Copyright 2018 Booklist
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