The Expatriates
by Janice Y. K. Lee

Overview - "Raise a glass: The first great book-club novel of 2016 has arrived. USA Today, 4/4 stars
A female, funny Henry James in Asia, Janice Y. K. Lee is vividly good on the subject of Americans abroad. The New York Times Book Review

Sex and the City meets Lost in Translation .

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More About The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
"Raise a glass: The first great book-club novel of 2016 has arrived. USA Today, 4/4 stars
A female, funny Henry James in Asia, Janice Y. K. Lee is vividly good on the subject of Americans abroad. The New York Times Book Review

Sex and the City meets Lost in Translation. The Skimm

Janice Y. K. Lee s New York Times bestselling debut, The Piano Teacher, was called immensely satisfying by People, intensely readable by O, The Oprah Magazine, and a rare and exquisite story by Elizabeth Gilbert. Now, in her long-awaited new novel, Lee explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong.
Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives collide in ways that have irreversible consequences for them all. Atmospheric, moving, and utterly compelling, The Expatriates confirms Lee as an exceptional talent and one of our keenest observers of women s inner lives."

  • ISBN-13: 9780525429470
  • ISBN-10: 0525429476
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publish Date: January 2016
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.05 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Asian American

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-10-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

After her successful debut novel, The Piano Teacher, Lee returns with a captivating book about three American women living in an expatriate community in Hong Kong. She explores their experiences with love, loss, and uncertainty about the future and the unexpected ways their lives intersect. Mercy, a recent Columbia graduate who relocated from New York to Hong Kong in search of new opportunities, struggles to move forward after her involvement in a disturbing incident. Margaret, who used to have a life that other people envied, with a happy marriage and three children, finds herself searching for a new identity after her family is shaken by a loss. And Hilary, a wealthy housewife wishing for a child and toying with the idea of adoption, feels stalled by indecision and a troubled marriage. Their international community, described vividly in this atmospheric narrative, is insular. That these women occupy different spaces in this world of privilege does not prevent them from altering one anothers lives. Lees women are complex and often flawed, which makes the stories of their strength all the more compelling in this tale of family, motherhood, and attempts at moving on. (Jan.)

BookPage Reviews

Searching for home in Hong Kong

Three American women become ensconced in the cultural mélange of Hong Kong’s expat community in Janice Y.K. Lee’s absorbing, character-driven novel, following 2009’s The Piano Teacher. The author, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, opens her novel with a spot-on description of that sprawling city’s expat contingent—the Chinese, Irish, French, Koreans and Americans—“a veritable UN of fortune-seekers.” They have come for their jobs, or their husbands’ jobs; for six months, a year, maybe three years or more. And they have no idea what to expect from their temporary new home.

Mercy, 27, is a Korean-American woman who has been trying to make a “new start” in Hong Kong for three years. She was raised in a cramped apartment in Queens and graduated from Columbia, a “fancy college with fancy kids who showed her a different world.” She is having trouble finding a steady job and is not yet feeling comfortable in her role as one of the few single expats.

Margaret Reade also arrived three years ago, following her husband, a higher-up with a U.S. multinational. On the surface they are living the enviable, seemingly perfect expat life, but they have suffered a recent loss, and Margaret is finding it nearly impossible to move on. 

Hilary and her husband, David, have been in Hong Kong for eight years, and she has been trying to become pregnant ever since their arrival. Her marriage has “cooled into politeness,” but she’s hoping a child might help.

In Hong Kong’s insulated atmosphere, the paths of these three women manage to cross in intricate and unexpected ways. As they tell their stories in alternating chapters, Mercy, Margaret and Hilary become so familiar, the reader seems to have met them before. We know them not just superficially but are privy to their inner thoughts, frustrations and dreams. Like Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah, Lee is a perceptive observer of her compelling characters and brings them vividly to life in this moving novel.

RELATED CONTENT: Read our interview with Janice Y.K. Lee about The Expatriates.

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews