Book Review: A River of Stars

Book Review: A River of StarsA River of Stars
by Vanessa Hua
on August 14, 2018
Pages: 289
Published by Ballantine Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, Literary Fiction, Multicultural

In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.

Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she's carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he's overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.

As Scarlett awaits the baby's arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett's baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van--only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco's bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn't know is that her baby's father is not far behind her.

A River of Stars is an entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure, told with empathy and wit. It's a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.

My Takeaway

“Here in America, she might change the world — but she had to hurry before someone else did.”
Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars

Before reading A River of Stars, I had no idea birthing centers or “maternity hotels” (as they’re known) existed right here in the United States. If you are asking yourself what the heck is a maternity hotel, let me explain. Basically, maternity hotels house Chinese women who want to give birth in America at a cost of between $25,000 to $40,000. Chinese women arrive at these so-called hotels while around 6-7 months pregnant and by giving birth in the United States their newborn is automatically an American citizen. It seems the vast majority of the women return home after birth, but in A River of Stars, two of the women (Scarlett and Daisy) escape the center in a stolen van and give the American dream their best shot(s). Hua is a detailed writer (lots of facts in the novel) who weaves an incredible story full of intricate and amusing individuals. She brought the characters to life and gave me a front row seat to the Chinese immigrant experience. If you enjoy immigrant stories, I recommend you get yourself a copy (great choice for book clubs). Also, if you would like to know more about birthing centers, click here

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. I ended up buying my own copy. 🙂

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