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The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriageby Ellen Graf
Synopses & Reviews
The quirky and funny story of a woman in upstate New York who marries a man from China whom she barely knows. They don't share a language or a culture, but together they discover what matters most--a story of taking risks, culture clash, and the journey to real love.
Ellen was lonely and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend suggested that she meet Zhong-Hua, her brother in northern China. Ellen soon finds herself going to Beijing to meet him, and although they speak only a few words of each other's language, they decide to get married.
Ellen and Zhong-Hua settle at Ellen's farmhouse in upstate New York where they face a host of challenges, including the language barrier, financial problems, and profound cultural differences. When Ellen tries to teach Zhong-Hua to drive, explaining to him the concept of right-of-way and the meaning of a red light, he cheerfully replies, I don't think so, and develops his own free-form, heart-stopping style of driving. A character worthy of first-rate fiction, Zhong-Hua rarely fails to surprise and entertain us, whether by his driving style, his culinary tastes (Ellen must learn to appreciate rock fungus, among other unusual delicacies), and his creative low-budget home maintenance solutions (who knew that concrete had so many uses?).
But Zhong-Hua is also a man with a complicated and painful past, which includes time spent in forced labor during Mao's cultural revolution. He's a survivor who has emerged from his struggles with remarkable optimism. Whenever things appear hopeless, his refrain to Ellen is, Just try, maybe work. Somehow, it usually does.
At its heart, The Natural Laws of Good Luck is a story of acceptance and of love beyond words. It is also a tale of finding renewal at midlife by taking a brave leap into the unknown.
Graf tells the quirky and funny story of how she marries a man from China whom she barely knows. "The Natural Laws of Good Luck" is a story of acceptance and of love beyond words. It is also a tale of finding renewal at midlife by taking a brave leap into the unknown.
Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken connection between them and they decide to marry.
What follows is a remarkably touching and humorous story of two people from completely different worlds trying to make a marriage work. Settling in at Ellen’s ramshackle farmhouse in upstate New York, they quickly discover the cultural chasm that lies between them. Ellen and her teenage daughter decide to adopt a policy of nonjudgment as Zhong-hua lobbies to sell their refrigerator (“Just three people, no need”), serves them giant sea slugs for dinner, and brusquely nudges Ellen aside without an “excuse me” (“Family no need these kind of words”).
Zhong-hua is not the type to offer his wife impromptu smiles or hugs, but in bed at night he holds her tightly like she’s “something long lost and precious that might not live until morning.” The Natural Laws of Good Luck is an unusual and exquisitely written love story—one that will resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated with wonder the spaces that exist between us and those we care about.
About the Author
Ellen Graf is a writer and sculptor. She has received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Grant, and she holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.
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