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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the New York Times best seller The Piano Teacher, a beautiful, transporting novel about motherhood, marriage, and friendship.

Janice Y. K. Lee's blockbuster hit 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.

©2016 Janice Y. K. Lee (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Devastating and heartwarming, and exquisite in every way, this is a book you'll fall deeply in love with and never want to put down." (Kevin Kwan)
"We found ourselves racing through this exotic, sexy, heartbreaking book.... We couldn't wait to find out what happens to each of the women." (Glamour )
"Ann Marie Lee's singsong intonation expresses the feminine spirit at the heart of Janice Y.K. Lee's long awaited new novel.... Author and narrator blend perfectly to convey a powerful journey of love, loss, and growth." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • jennifer
  • BROOKLYN, NY, United States
  • 02-27-16

Engrossing

An engrossing portrait of women living abroad, without being a novel about living abroad-- the story could take place anywhere in the Western world.

It's about: Three women and how their lives intersect, and secrets, and all that stuff. Well done.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • TD
  • 01-30-16

modern story of women

The book was interesting. It made the world seem a smaller place. It was also refreshing to show the power of forgiveness and also that all woman are not spiteful. I really enjoyed the end.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Rough at first, but solid by the end

It was a little tough to get into the boom in the beginning but by the end the story really came together and it was wonderful. I enjoyed her first book and had been looking forward to this one. She didn't disappoint!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The Charms and Challenges Of Life As An Expat

I love it when an author uses a geographical setting as the focal point of a story and in Janice Y.K. Lee's elegant second novel, Hong Kong certainly plays a central role.

For the expat American community featured in this novel, the former British colony has it all: a flourishing economy, a modern infrastructure, and a relative tolerant society, all set in a beautiful and exotic location.

This is a community full of overachievers, people that radiate success, affluence and wellness. Many of them have relocated to Hong Kong pursuing new career opportunities, at the same time most of them consider the place to serve only as a provisional home.

The Expatriates follows the lives of Mercy, Margaret and Hilary all of whom have relocated from America to Hong Kong at different times and under very different circumstances, but they also face similar struggles trying to fit it into a society that uses cultural norms that are unfamiliar and at times feel outright regressive.

"Hong Kong is so small" is an aphorism we hear from the expats again and again, which might strike you as odd considering they live in a place populated by 7+million people.

Whether is a conscious decision or not, inevitably these Americans find it easier to socialize with their own kind, this results in a "living in a fishbowl" lifestyle, a place where everyone knows everyone, privacy is a scarce commodity and secrets are hard to keep.

The lives of our three protagonists will overlap in unexpected ways and they'll find themselves entangled in a complicated web of lies and betrayal, but they'll also get a chance to forgive and start anew.

These women have lived for the most part in a bubble, they have enjoyed vacations to Bali, excursions by junk boats and relaxing parties at their country club, but The Expatriates underlines the fact that a life of privilege and adversity are not mutually exclusive and that ironically having such a sheltered existence if anything, might make it harder to recover from personal loss and hardship.

At the end, the stories of these women remind us how fragile life is and how our destinies can so radically changed in the blink of an eye.

I really enjoyed Ann Marie Lee's narration of this novel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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You can be a jerk in a foreign country too

This is a book for women; 99% of men will not enjoy it.

If you are expecting a book about love, relationships, forgiveness, and redemption, then you will love this book. If you are looking for something about ex-pats and their lives and struggles with foreign cultures, this is not that book.

Having lived as an ex-pat for 14 years, both single and with my husband and adopted local kids, I expected to connect with this story, especially since I had lived in Taiwan and visited Hong Kong many times so I know the land, the people and the culture.

This book is much less about being ex-patriates than it is about social groups and gaps; dealing with infertility, tragedy, betrayal, and infidelity; being the victim or the cause of suffering. It is about mothers, motherhood, and women, solidarity among women.

It is written beautifully, and develops gradually into a whole. There is no reason for it to be set in Hong Kong, but then no reason not to either.

Three women, each struggling with her own burdens, then suffers another deeper blow. This is about how they handle this, how they view others and then themselves, grow stronger to cope with their lives, then learn about patience, forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption. Along the way, they learn about mothers and what "woman" means.

Incidental to the women's stories, are the three men and the ways in which they deal with the same events the women are dealing with. One of the men is a stand-up, supportive guy who actually hangs in there and helps. The other two go off on their own pity-parties and, by the end of the story, haven't learned to be men. There is still hope for them, but that would be later.

The story loses a star for me because of the disconnect with the title. The ex-pats didn't have to deal with anything they wouldn't have confronted back home. The Hong Kong-ness didn't matter to the story; they could or would have been the same jerks there as here. What I wanted more of was how being in a foreign country makes you feel as if your actions are invisible to the world and don't matter because no one back home sees you. I wanted more than the little bit there was of how the ex-pats interact with the locals. There were a couple, all negative, but this book wasn't really about that. This was just a regular-coming-of-age story even though the women were beyond teenage.

There are quite a few tidbits of wisdom here like, "you have let happiness happen." These and all the redemptive events happen quite late in the story, so it is a bit hard to slog along to get there. But it really is a beautiful story, with many points to ponder.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Wonderfully descriptive

I love audiobooks and this one does not disappoint! It is filled with descriptive and easy to imagine characters that inhabit the Hong Kong world. You are immediately pulled onto the streets of Hong Kong and enveloped by the sights and sounds bustling all around! Hilary Margaret and Merci are very distinctly different and you wonder how their worlds are intertwined - this is where the author creates the complexities of these women that makes you want to learn more thus making them more meaningful to you - as a child I was once an expatriate and lived in Tachikawa Japan so I could clearly understand the struggles of an American in a new place for the first time!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

This is a story that draws you in almost immediately and then holds you right through to the end. While the characters are all pretty unlikeable, you know you are seeing them at their worst and that they are stuck in circumstances that would make anybody crazy, so you end up hanging on every word to find out how this is all going to pan out.

I’m surprised that some reviewers say it isn’t really about being an expat. As an expat myself, I think the book is very much about that. That was part of the point of the book—that life is life no matter where you live, but there are some very special aspects added to life when you live so far from home. It’s startling to me how very similar my experience has been, even though I’m not the wealthy kind.

The characters are relatable, their choices understandable -though we cringe while they make them. In the end, we see them making realistic adaptations with new maturity and wisdom. It’s a story of hope and that of understanding that life is a continual process rather than a continuous line.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Insightful to its characters' minds

Any additional comments?

'We travel to find ourselves', or so the adage goes. The novel is set in Hong Kong, but it might as well be anywhere. I wasn’t expecting it, but instead of describing the dissimilarities or quirks of life abroad, JYKL presents several inter-twined stories, through which we get a sometimes insightful, sometimes base or guttural telling of the vicissitudes of their lives and how they live them – the latter two I found were more frequently from the minds of the characters themselves, although it is difficult to tell with an audiobook. <br/><br/>The main stories are between Mercy and Margret, with additional pairs for Hillary and David, Hillary and Mercy, Mercy and her mother, Hillary and Julian, Mercy and Charles, Mercy and David, and et cetera for almost all the character pairs. Raw life, injury and pursuit of recovery are common themes, and I think you’ll enjoy the book most if you’re appreciative of the interplay between them and life abroad (think: the movie Wild, but with people). <br/><br/>In that case, the physical location is not the main point of being an expatriate – one may also note that that word can have a double meaning. But as a sometimes expatriate I can say that the book’s insights, quirks, description of daily life through the foreign background – and its actual lack of local perspective – are true to some of the emotional discovery of the ex-pat experience. <br/><br/>All in all, it’s a great novel, and I hope you’ll give it a listen.<br/><br/>p.s. this is my first review – I don’t normally like a book enough to do them.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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depressing lives cause anxiety while reading this

The lives are depressing. Very Little if any joy. it causes anxiety and sadness while reading about the characters lives. I can't take anymore and must delete it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

Loved this book and loved the narrator. I have listened to several books that she has read and I am always pleased. This book features women as the main characters each living a difference experience as an Expat. The narrator's ability to interpret each character and portray her individually is natural and intuitive. A great listen all around.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful