Synopses & Reviews
Stretching from mid-century China to both coasts of the United States at the turn of the millennium, Beautiful as Yesterday tells the powerful and captivating story of three Chinese women from the same family. It is a penetrating exploration of what it means to belong, what it means to be a family, and the impact of history and memories on one's life.
Speaking English is like taking a bath with my clothes on, Mary Chang admits after having lived in America for more than ten years. Under the facade of being a devoted wife, mother, churchgoer, and a hightech professional, she is tormented by adultery, her grudge toward her parents, and her despair at work. Ingrid, Mary's attractive estranged sister, prefers her bohemian friends' Latin culture to her own, though her college boyfriend's tragic death never fails to haunt her. And when their widowed mother Wang Fenglan, a state factory retiree, travels from China to America for the first time under Mary's request to explore the possibility of emigrating, she awkwardly reunites the family and unknowingly stirs up buried family tensions and secrets.
"In this second novel from Wu (February Flowers), the story of two estranged sisters who have emigrated to the United States from China sings in places, but is otherwise wooden and unsurprising. In the turn-of-the-millennium Bay Area, Mary Chang is struggling to overcome a restlessness generated by the growing distance in her marriage; her bitter feelings toward her younger sister, Ingrid; and the impending six-month visit of her widowed mother which Mary hopes will become permanent. Having witnessed Tiananmen Square as a college student in China, Ingrid is now piecing together a living in New York as a tour guide and translator, traveling often, changing boyfriends just as frequently and hanging with artsy, bohemian friends. When her mother arrives in the U.S., Ingrid moves to San Francisco to be close by. Predictably, secrets from the past are revealed. A surprise plot twist in the climax is oddly devoid of tension. Shifting points of view among chapters don't clarify the characters, who remain half-formed and fuzzy. Though strong in the sections set in China, the book feels unfinished and derivative of Amy Tan and other Asian-American writers. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Wu's debut novel follows the story of three Chinese women from the same family who are trying to reconcile the past with the present, while torn between two different cultures.