I was Intrigued by the title and the period it talks about. It narrates the story of a young Chinese woman who, by a turn of events, finds herself as a wife to a man she never met and a mother to a 3 year old. The title of the novel – “paper wife” – is a metaphor for the faked “documented” relationships for Chinese eager to immigrate to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.
The author did a great deal of research, so the reader can find out about the Angel Island Immigration Detention Center, in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants received the most scrutiny. They had to study hard the documents paid by their sponsors – husbands, uncles, brothers – who wanted to bring the dear ones to the United States. Th novel also describes the life in early China towns.
The central character is a strong feminine model who overcame difficulties and used whatever means she had to protect her family. Her believes and strong moral inheritance from her mother and grand mother are depicted with respect and admiration, owned to women who relied on their ancestral roots to let new roots of their families grow in a new land.
I found the novel a light reading, perfect for quiet evenings.