Author: Lijia Zhang
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Summary: This was a slow paced book, but the character and relationship development were touching and believable.
“Surviving by her wits alone, Lotus charges headlong into the neon lights of Shenzhen, determined to pull herself out of the gutter and decide her own path.” However, she quickly finds herself working as a “massage girl” or prostitute while lying to her family about the source of the money she sends home. The men who notice her provide her many opportunities for a chance at security, but each also presents their own dangers. As Lotus struggles to make a decision, she finds it difficult to envision a life of her own due to the guilt and insecurity she feels.
Initially, I struggled to get into this story. The writing was beautiful, but sometimes became too flowery, and the plot felt slow. Throughout, I was curious about what would happen, without feeling driven to find out. However, in the second half of the book, I suddenly saw what the author had been building. Lotus was a complex character. Different pieces of her personality were slowly revealed as she told her story. The relationship she shared with a photographer and with her brother also both grew in complexity and changed in believable ways throughout the story. In the end, this story had some of the most believable relationships I’ve read. They were at times beautiful and at times tragic in perfect balance. Sometimes extremes in romance seem too clearly fictional to me and this book didn’t have that problem.
I actually did end up with one complaint though. Comments from both Lotus and the photographer suggested that men are essentially victims of their sex drive. This is a myth that drives me a little crazy. It was a small thing though and not enough to ruin my enjoyment. It also often seemed that the photographer cared about Lotus because she was compliant and powerless. This second point might have troubled me more if it weren’t true that many of the characters enjoyed the control they had when they felt like the more powerful person in a relationship. I think this was actually an interesting and non-gender biased theme that the author explored. Overall, I thought that the author’s portrayal of gender and power was thought-provoking and handled well. Recommended.