Fabulous Fiction Firsts #618 “All Americans have something lonely about them. I don't know what the reason might be, except maybe that they're all descended from immigrants.” ~ Ryū Murakami

Two of the most anticipated debuts this fall take readers deep into the lives of immigrant families.

The Wangs vs. the World * by Jade Chang follows an Chinese-American family as it tumbles from riches to rags. Charles Wang landed in LA as a young man penniless but managed to make a fortune in cosmetics. Now in his fifties, a series of rash business choices and the 2008 financial crisis bankrupted him. Homeless (his Bel-Air mansion foreclosed) and unable to pay tuition for his younger kids, he packs up what he could in the 1950 baby-blue Mercedes that used to belong to his dead first wife, rounds up the kids and a disgruntled second wife Barbra and heads for upstate New York - to daughter Saina's renovated farmhouse.

Unbeknownst to his family, Charles has no intention of settling in the middle of nowhere. His plans is to deposit his family on Saina, and heads to China to reclaim his ancestral lands (and his dignity), lost in the communist takeover. "It turns out that the Wangs can’t function without the trappings of their now-lost lavish lifestyle, a situation that gives the road trip a decidedly wacky bent and infuses the novel with humor. " (Booklist) With each bump on the road, the Wangs might eventually come to see what matters when you think you've lost it all; and what it means to be a family.

Ann Arbor author and a O. Henry Prize winner Derek Palacio's debut The Mortifications *
is praised by Peter Ho Davies as "(a) revelatory tale of Cuba and America, of faith and family, of the spirit and the flesh,... a debut remarkable for its wise and scrupulous insight into the human heart. Palacio feelingly reminds us that all immigrants are also exiles, wounded with loss, striving to make a home even as they yearn for the one they’ve left behind.”

During the 1980 traumatic Mariel Boatlift, Soledad Encarnación took twins Isabel and Ulises and fled to the US, leaving behind husband/father Uxbal, a committed revolutionary, for the promise of a better life. Settling in Hartford, Connecticut, far from the Miami Cuban immigrant community, they began a process of growth and transformation.

While Soledad establishes herself as a court stenographer and finds romance with Henri Willems, a Dutch horticulturalist eager to cultivate Cuban tobacco; Isabel, spiritually hungry and desperate for higher purpose, becomes a nun and works with the dying; Ulises, bookish and awkwardly tall, like his father, finds an aptitude working the soil. When Soladad is stricken with breast cancer, she asks Ulises to find Isabel who has disappeared, thus setting the stage of their homecoming where Uxbal awaits.

"Palacio’s writing is deceptively simple and startlingly original, and his characters, raw, almost mythic in scope, hang on long after the last page....Searching, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful, the novel is as intimate as it is sweeping." (Kirkus Reviews)

* = starred review