Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.
Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.
Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai welcoming millions of workers and visitors to the 2010 World Expo, we meet a tapestry of characters through Naomi: Joss Kong, a Shanghai socialite who leads an enviable life, but must harbor the secrets of her husband, Tay Kai Tang. Logan Hayden, a womanizing restaurateur looking for love in all the wrong places. Pan Jinsung and Ouyang Zhangjie, a silver-aged couple struggling with adapting to the ever-changing faces of their city. Dante Ouyang, who had just returned to China after spending years overseas, must choose between being filial and being in love. All their dreams and aspirations interweave within the sprawling web of Shanghai.
This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships——familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships——in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.
That’s what he loved about China—it was a forgiving place, a vast country full of opportunities for reinvention.
First I need to mention that I’m super excited to be part of this book tour! This is a super important milestone for me so, big thanks to Favourite Pages Book Club and Crystal Z. Lee.
The story starts like the movie Valentine’s Day. We get to see more than one’s person story, all of them with Shanghai as a common point. Particularly we follow the story of Naomi, a 27-year-old woman with Taiwanese father, Japanese mother, that lived most of her life in California. She gets to Shanghai following her fiancé. Once their engagement breaks, she finds herself alone, without a house, job nor boyfriend in Shanghai. Now she must take the decision of staying or leaving, but she is not willing to admit defeat, so she stays and starts working for a better situation. In a work trip she meets Dante, and even thought she didn’t want a new relationship, things just flow. But life always gets in the way and their happy ending may be harder than expected.
That’s what yuan fen is. Fate. One split decision could alter the course of your entire life.
We also follow the story of Joss, Naomi’s best friend. She’s also new to Shanghai, where she forms her new life with her husband. As just married problems are common, but adding the fact that Tay comes from a rich family that, as seem common for conservative families, likes to mess too much in their relationship. They don’t even like the fact that she decides to work even if it’s not necessary, and less when they start to take too long for giving them grandsons.
Tian chang di jiu, bai nian hao he was a popular greeting guests would shower on a couple at their nuptials. It meant “as long as the heavens and earth, may your marriage prosper a hundred years on.”
This is not my normal type of book, it has no fantasy on it but… I proved myself I’m a softie 😅.
Maybe they knew each other from a past life. Sometimes that was the explanation for the inexplicable attraction one felt. And who could argue with that?
I was enjoying the story from the beginning, but Naomi was too young and reckless and she started to bothered me. She decided Shanghai would be a fresh start for her, but when things are going amazing, some bad decisions can destroy all she has fought to get. It’s a realistic story, with lots of ups and downs, but once we get near the end of the book tears of joy were fighting behind my eyes.
Apart from the story itself, this book was an amazing way of learning a lot about Chinese culture and even history. We also get a glimpse to Japanese and Taiwanese culture.
While Mandarin had four tones, the Taiwanese dialect had seven.I can’t even understand how this is possible…
It’s also full of Chinese expressions, all of them explained which I particularly loved as I’m obsessed with languages and would actually love to learn more Chinese (my level is at Ni hao and Xie Xie 🤷♀️).
Well okay. I’m glad you are at least learning Chinese. Chinese is the language of the twenty-first century. It’s a shame you’re only learning simplified characters though. The traditional characters carry over four thousand years of history. For example, the character for ‘love’ is written this way.” Sylvie took out a pen from her purse and started scrawling on a napkin. “But the simplified system used in China takes out this key part of the character. And you know what this part means? It means ‘heart.’ The simplified version of ‘love’ takes out ‘heart’ from the character, and what is love without heart?”
I was also surprised with the “issues” of multicultural people. I’ve always thought it was so cool to have a multicultural heritage, but I never imagined they could be harassed for that, and never would have imagined the possible confusion about where are you really from.
For Naomi, existing on the hyphen—balancing her Japanese, Taiwanese, American identities—feeling neither here nor there, a drifter among homes and countries, was a perpetual state of mind.
Basically this is a relatively light reading book, but impressively informative on the cultural side. It gives a clear image of Shanghai and how it may feel to live in a place like that. We get to accompany Naomi and Joss while they find each one true place in the world, and they finally get to their stability, even when this may not have been which they expected. We also get beautiful glimpses at some other’s life histories. Apart from giving a good look at how real life is, it also shows that sometimes changes are for the better. And as the quote says: “You meet the one… amongst thousand and tens of thousands of people, amidst thousand and tens of thousands of years, in the boundless wilderness of time, not a step sooner, not a step later.”
Crystal Z. Lee is a Taiwanese American bilingual writer. She has called many places home, including Taipei, New York, Shanghai, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She was formerly a public relations executive who had worked with brands in the fashion, beauty, technology, and automotive industries. “Love and Other Moods” is her first novel.
You can find her here:
And in case you want to buy this book, because, why wouldn’t you? You can click the links here:
For the next stops on the tour you can visit Favourite Pages.
Bye bye 💕