Lisa See is best known for On Golden Mountain and her books about women’s bonds. But her first book, Fower Net published in 1997, introduced a Chinese woman and an American man who are in love. There are two other books in the series.
This book is a mystery. It begins with the murders of one Chinese and one American and morphs into an international smuggling operation with roots in both China and the US. Because the first body was the son of the American Ambassador to China and the second body was the son of one of the richest men in China, the two country’s governments decided to cooperate in the investigation. Thus, Liu Hulan and David Stark found themselves trying to make sense of the dual murders and the suspicious actions of their superiors.
Lisa See wrote of herself: I’m part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather was the godfather/patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don’t look at all Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I have hundreds of relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are only about a dozen who look like me.
She is devoted to explaining Chinese culture to Americans. For each book, she spends time traveling in China and exploring Chinatowns in America. Some readers will complain about having to wade through the cultural explanations as well as the details of Chinese medicine and the smuggling operations, but I am eager to learn more. This is a good book.
There are few religious elements in the book in part because that was not the intent. I suspect trying to include a Christian message would have weakened the story. At its base, this is a cultural clash. Yet, See portrays both American and Chinese as people, people who do good things and people who do bad things. No one group has a monopoly on goodness.
That, to me, is an important Christian message. Humans are too eager to demonize those who are different. We see it too much on the international level. Politicians use it to stir up support for themselves. Christians also use it to emphasize our “special” status with God.
G K Chesterton created the character of Father Brown and placed him in many unique situations. If you have read them you will remember that Brown never put anyone down. He was at home where ever he found himself and he liked the people he was with.
Lisa See had this to say about herself. But because of how I look I will always be “outside.” In Los Angeles Chinatown, people know me, but when I go to other Chinese communities or to China, people see me as an outsider. When I go into the larger white community here in the U.S., people look at me and talk to me as though I belong, but inside I often feel very foreign. I don’t like their bigotry and racism. In both worlds, I’m a bit outside. I think this has made me a better— and certainly more interesting—writer, because it really makes me look and feel.
Followers of Jesus love, they do not hate.