As an Army wife and Air Force brat, I know all to well the challenges that come with picking up your life and moving to some far away place. That’s exactly what happens to Tina Martin. Exhausted, overworked, and, in her mind, unappreciated, she agrees to give up the corporate hustle and bustle to support her husband in his new job…in Shanghai!
Having spent some time in Japan as a teenager, I know all too well the dangers of the open-trench restrooms that makes the opening scene rather unforgettable.
What I liked:
I liked that the author talks about the ex-pat community and explores different aspects of the Chinese culture. There were many laugh-out-loud scenes, but also lots of touching moments where you get to see Tina grow as a mom and a person.
Things I Wish Had Been Different:
This book has a lot of dialogue. A lot. And while I enjoy clever banter as much as the next girl, sometimes it felt a bit forced to use dialogue to push the story along. I almost wonder if this story would have been better served written in first person? It would have allowed us to feel Tina’s growth as a character a bit better. Currently, she comes off a little bratty. I appreciate that the author intended to show how hard it was for her to adjust to live, not just in a new place, but entirely immersed in a foreign culture. In several places, I couldn’t help but think, “how very American of her.” I will say that by the end, she has gained some true appreciation for the Chinese culture, but I might have liked to see that developed a bit more.
This was a quick and easy read, and I could empathize with the main character in many ways. For the nod to how hard it is to be a working mom and the challenges that come from learning to live abroad, I give this a solid three stars.
Genre: Women’s Fiction, City Fiction, Humorous Literary Fiction
Release Date: July 20, 2021
On the advice of a five-dollar psychic, Tina Martin, a zany, overworked mother of two, quits her high-powered job and moves her family to Shanghai. Tina yearns for this new setting to bring her the zen-like inner peace she’s always heard about on infomercials. Instead, she becomes a totally exasperated fish out of water, doing wacky things like stealing the shoes of a shifty delivery man, spraying local women with a bidet hose, and contemplating the murder of her new pet cricket.
It takes the friendship of an elderly tai chi instructor, a hot Mandarin tutor, and several mah-jongg-tile-slinging expats to bring Tina closer to a culture she doesn’t understand, the dream job she never knew existed, and the self she has always sought. Fish Heads and Duck Skin will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered who they are, why they were put here, and how they ever lived before eating pan-fried pork buns.