Li Jing, a happily married businessman, is dining at a grand hotel in Shanghai when a gas explosion rips through the building. A shard of glass pierces Jing's forehead, obliterating his ability to speak Chinese. He can form only faltering phrases in the English he spoke as a child in Virginia, leaving him unable to communicate with his wife, Meiling, or their young son. Desperate, the family turns to an American neurologist, Rosalyn Neal, who finds herself as lost as Jing--whom she calls James--in this bewitching city, where the two form a bond that Meiling does not need a translator to understand.
With gorgeous prose and a dazzling sense of place, The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai introduces a brilliant storyteller, who shows us the power of language in both our public and our private relationships.
“From the explosion of its first pages to the searing emotion of its last, The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai is a novel that burns with the heat of clashing cultures and love transformed. Ruiyan Xu is a wonderful writer with a perfect ear for both the words and the silences that define us.” —Peter Manseau, Author of Songs for the Butcher's Daughter
“What a gem of a debut. This is the most literary kind, rarely found in fictions about new China. There is such deep silence in her prose, hinting at the depth of human suffering, anguish and hope. A gifted novelist, she gives us the insight into a Shanghai that is at once strange, and familiar, old and new, creating a literary landscape for its dwellers that is vast and beguiling, which is precisely the spirit of this metropolis, and of this fine fiction.” —Da Chen, Author of New York Times bestselling memoir Colors of the Mountain and Brothers (chosen as one of the best novels of 2006 by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Salt Lake Tribune, and Publishers Weekly)
“One part medical mystery, one part love story, THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN LANGUAGES OF SHANGHAI is an engrossing novel that will enchant you from beginning to end.” —David Ebershoff, New York Times bestselling author of THE 19TH WIFE and THE DANISH GIRL
“In her captivating debut novel, Ruiyan Xu paints an absorbing portrait of modern Shanghai. When a terrible explosion leaves husband and father Li Jing without the language in which to communicate, the Li family must rediscover who they are and how to live. The LOST AND FORGOTTEN LANGUAGES OF SHANGHAI is a richly nuanced and compelling story of loss and grief, betrayal and redemption by a gifted new voice.” —Gail Tsukiyama, award-winning author of THE SAMURAI'S GARDEN and THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS
“This is an intelligent and thoughtful exploration of the terrifying isolation that can come from loss of language. The novel skilfully examines the complex relationship between language and identity, seeing beyond the words themselves to the way in which they mould our thoughts and shape our personalities. With sensitivity and perception, Ruiyan Xu penetrates right to the heart of the dilemma of translation, the etiquette that is embedded within each language, the nuances of tone. This is a novel which makes us think beyond our boundaries, that opens up a fresh understanding of our relationship with language.” —Clare Morrall, author of the Booker Prize finalist ASTONISHING SPLASHES OF COLOUR