Friday, June 13, 2008

"Happy Family"

Wendy Lee is a graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program. She worked for two years in China as a volunteer English teacher.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Happy Family, and reported the following:
Happy Family is the story of a young Chinese woman named Hua Wu who emigrates to New York, where she eventually becomes the nanny to the adopted Chinese daughter of an American couple. While her job grants her entrance into the privileged world of her employers, it also illuminates the distance between them, despite the fact that they all love the same child.

Page 69 is actually a huge turning point in the book. Hua has just run into a woman named Sally with whom she took her illegal trip from China to America. During the trip Hua, who is from the city and educated, had considered herself better off than Sally, who is from the countryside.

But, as Hua says, "Once we arrived, it was if passing through customs at the airport had completely erased our identities and our pasts. We were made the same, and we were on our own." Both Hua and Sally now work menial service jobs in Chinatown, Hua as a waitress and Sally as a masseuse.

The one bright spot for Hua is her friendship with the American couple and their daughter. Up to this point they have only met in a local park. But, at the bottom of page 69, the mother invites Hua to come babysit at their apartment in the West Village. Although surprised by the casualness of the request (she's stunned that Americans are so quick to invite strangers into their houses), Hua agrees. She has no idea that this is the first step into gaining entrance to a life that she thought was beyond her reach.

So, in the span of page 69, the novel's main character has gone from a state of despair to one full of hope and promise. Whether she can make the most of her new situation, though, remains to be seen.
Read an excerpt from Happy Family, and learn more about the book and author at Wendy Lee's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue