THE EXPATRIATES

Janice Y. K. Lee

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,

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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.

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  • Penguin Books
  • Paperback
  • October 2016
  • 352 Pages
  • 9780143108429

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$16.00

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About Janice Y. K. Lee

Janice Y.K. LeeJanice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong.  A former editor at Elle, she lives in New York with her husband and four children.

Praise

Irresistible . . . Lee’s wizardry is her ability to whip drama, pathos and humor into a scrumptious page-turning blend. Raise a glass: The first great book-club novel of 2016 has arrived.USA Today, 4/4 stars

A female, funny Henry James in Asia, Janice Y. K. Lee is vividly good on the subject of Americans abroad. . . . [The Expatriates is] vibrant social satire: Inside these dark materials lies the sharpness of a comic novelist, and Lee’s eye for the nuance and clash of culture, class, race and sex is subtle and shrewd.New York Times Book Review

Gorgeously wrought . . . The first must-read of 2016.” —Marie Claire

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever lived outside your native country for an extended period of time? If so, how did your experience compare with Lee’s description?

2. Would you be interested in living the expatriate life in Hong Kong? What about it appeals to you? What aspects would you find difficult to accept?

3. Do you think Margaret is a good mother?  Why or why not?

4. Is Mercy solely to blame for what happened in Seoul? Is she as unlucky as she believes herself to be?

5. Does Margaret initially feel a connection to Mercy because she herself is a quarter Korean? When we are in an unfamiliar environment, do we naturally gravitate toward those most similar to ourselves?

6. Is Charlie a missed opportunity for Mercy or would the relationship not have worked out anyway, given Mercy’s luck?

7. Did your opinion of Mercy change over the course of the novel? Why or why not?

8. What is your take on the anonymous discussion-board post describing Hilary’s initial relationship with Julian as similar to “trying on a coat”?

9. Overall, do social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and message boards such as the one Hilary haunts make people more or less connected with their fellow human beings? What are their pluses and minuses?

10. Did David ultimately help Hilary to overcome her indecision about adopting Julian? What do you think David will do at the end of the book? Will he be a happier person?

11. Would a child have healed David and Hilary’s marriage or was the rift between them already too great?

12. If you are a mother, do you feel that having a child is a transformative experience? Can a woman who’s not a mother understand the depth of Margaret’s loss?

13. What aspect of The Expatriates most resonated with you? Why?

14. Where do you see each of these three women in five years?