cover image River East, River West

River East, River West

Aube Rey Lescure. Morrow, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-325785-6

Rey Lescure’s captivating and sharp debut explores the dreams of an angsty mixed-race Chinese teen in Shanghai and her new stepfather, an older Chinese businessman. The story opens in 2007 with 14-year-old Alva fuming at the lavish wedding of her 40-something American mother, Sloan, upset that the nearly 60-year-old Lu Fang has “stole[n]” Sloan from her. In Alva’s eyes, Lu Fang is just the latest in a line of men who have financed Alva’s and Sloan’s lives in China, though he’s the first one to marry Sloan. Alva has never known her Chinese father, and has only ever wanted to move to America, but Sloan, a former Hollywood movie star, sees no point in returning, prompting Alva to act out by drinking and sending hentai porn to her classmates. Alva’s story is seamlessly interspersed with Lu Fang’s perspective, beginning in 1985 in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao, where he first met Sloan. At 36, he swims in the ocean each day to dull the sorrows of having been denied college graduation years earlier and his impending fatherhood with a wife he does not love. When he is approached by the beautiful blonde Sloan, who asks him to teach her to swim, he falls deeply for the confident and forthcoming young woman. They begin a passionate, risky affair. This glimpse into Lu Fang’s early life adds depth to a character who, in 2007, Alva only sees as an ATM. Rey Lescure provides immersive depictions of Shanghai and Qingdao along with delicate character work. This is a remarkable story of a family caught between cultures. Agent: Hillary Jacobson, CAA. (Jan.)