In a powerful debut novel about modern-day motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.
"Vanessa Hua's debut is an utterly absorbing novel."—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, Boss Yeung is overjoyed because the doctors have confirmed that he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his child has every advantage, Boss Yeung 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. The two 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 by an author the San Francisco Chronicle says “has a deep understanding of the pressure of submerged emotions and polite, face-saving deceptions.” It’s a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.
Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of a short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities. For two decades, she has been writing, in journalism and fiction, about Asia and the Asian diaspora. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. A River of Stars is Vanessa Hua’s first novel.
“[A] skillful debut novel . . . that is heartbreaking and, at turns, hilarious. . . . Hua wonderfully evokes the exigencies of lives at the margins of American culture by revealing Scarlett’s enduring ingenuity as she navigates near-destitute single motherhood.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for A River of Stars
“[A] powerful debut.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A vibrant, fascinating look into womanhood and how so many women’s lives are shaped by their relationship to the powerful men within them . . . Hua infuses this story with spirit and humor, exploring the ways in which pregnancy and motherhood can be both liberating and entrapping for the women who endure them. It’s a remarkable novel, one which makes clear the many ways in which women must struggle to make their lives their own.”—Nylon
“A River of Stars is a twenty-first-century immigrant story about the terror, drama, and desperation of being undocumented and yet unable to leave.”—The Village Voice
“Fans of Celeste Ng . . . might find their next read right here.”—Elle
“[This] gripping tale of Scarlett Chen, a Chinese boss’s mistress sent to America to birth a child, is as moving as it is entertaining.”—Electric Lit
“In A River of Stars, Vanessa Hua illuminates the lives of her characters with energy, verve, and heart. Hua tracks the minutest emotional terrain of these characters while simultaneously interrogating the cultural and economic forces that shape their worlds. This book holds your attention until the very last page.”—Emma Cline, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls
“A River of Stars is a page-turner, a riveting story of parenthood, migration, and the choices we make to survive. Fierce and determined, resourceful and resilient, Scarlett Chen is an unforgettable protagonist you can’t help but root for.”—Lisa Ko, author of the National Book Award finalist The Leavers
“How does Scarlett Chen—pregnant, with her immigration status in peril—make her way in America without friends, language, and money? Vanessa Hua’s compelling A River of Stars is a story of resistance, survival, and self-determination in a world that is seemingly indifferent to the needs of the poor and disenfranchised.”—Min Jin Lee, author of National Book Award finalist Pachinko