Imagine waking up to find you can no longer speak your own language. That's the situation facing Li Jing at the start of this culture-clash tale. Hectic, steamy Shanghai is beautifully evoked as Li Jing and American visitor, Rosalyn, are drawn to each other by their shared inability to express themselves in Chinese. Well-drawn, sympathetic Chinese and ex-pat characters and an intriguing set up make this a very readable, atmospheric treat.
Before he can react she is sliding out of the booth, arching her neck to look at the other diners. She grabs the waitress by the arm and points at bowls of noodles on other tables, then points back to their table, giggling, making an exaggerated, hapless face. All the other diners stare at Rosalyn now, talking over each other as the restaurant breaks into anarchy. 'Well, that's one way to get the job done,' a man by the door says, raising a glass to Rosalyn. 'The laowai knows what she wants.' someone else chimes in.
The waitress smiles reluctantly and nods before taking off for the kitchen. The other customers point and smile, and Rosalyn takes a curtsey before sliding back to sit across from him. 'You didn't realize that eating out with me would be such an adventure, did you?' she asks, her face still giddy, her voice too loud.