What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

What We Were Promised

After years of chasing the American dream, the Zhen family has moved back to China. Settling into a luxurious serviced apartment in Shanghai, Wei, Lina, and their daughter, Karen, join an elite community of Chinese-born, Western-educated professionals who have returned to a radically transformed city.One morning, in the eighth tower of Lanson Suites, Lina discovers that a childhood keepsake, an ivory bracelet, has gone missing. The incident contr...

Details What We Were Promised

TitleWhat We Were Promised
Release DateJul 10th, 2018
PublisherLittle, Brown
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Cultural, China, Adult, Asia, Adult Fiction

Reviews What We Were Promised

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    4 stars to What We Were Promised! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ In What We Were Promised, the opening prologue includes the Zhen family leaving China to move to the United States. When life does not turn out the way they had expected financially, they return to Shanghai several years later. Next, we meet Sunny, a housekeeper working in a lavish high rise apartment in Shanghai. Immediately apparent are the class differences as a result of her occupation, as wel...
  • Susanne Strong
    4.25 Stars* (rounded down)Culture, Tradition and Family Ties. That is the story of “What We Were Promised.”The transition of moving from the United States to Shanghai is a difficult one for the Zhen family. Lina was a School Teacher and is now a “Tai Tai,” a wealthy housewife, who need not work. Her husband Wei, is a successful Marketing Strategist. They live in Lanson Suites and have a Housekeeper and an AYI (a nanny/companion), named Su...
  • Meredith B. (readingwithmere)
    3.75 stars rounded up! The Truth was more complicated than that. These objects of luxury they handled - how easy it was to fill them with meaning, to let them represent what you did or didn't have. How difficult, in fact, to know what you wanted in the first place. This is the author's debut novel and it was beautifully written. This book dives into some deep rooted family issues that some cultures don't like to talk about. As Children, Wei and L...
  • Susie
    As a second generation Asian-American, so much of this novel resonated with me. I've already read it cover-to-cover twice now, and will come back to it again when I'm in the mood for some seriously good writing and story, probably accompanied by a glass of wine and dark chocolate.This book tells the story of a family—Lina, Wei, their adolescent daughter, Karen—moving back to Shanghai for Wei’s marketing career after two decades of living in...
  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Fang Lijian’s perspective on love was different from any she’d heard before. Lina’s friends had watched too many American movies and to them, love was a classic car that would come roaring in from nowhere when the time was right, pick you up, and peel away. For all their warnings to her about relinquishing control marrying a man she didn’t know, they seemed to crave the kind of love that...
  • Lillian Li
    I loved Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised. A true talent, debut author Tan writes prose that is compelling, evocative, funny, and at the same time manages to cut straight to the core of things. Most impressive of all is the authority and care with which Tan builds her world of nouveau-riche Shanghai, not only situating the complex, cosmopolitan city in the equally complex history of China and the Cultural Revolution, but allowing this same histo...
  • Jessica
    I can't tell whether I thought this was unremarkable and rather boring just because I've already read 16* books like it this year or if it really wouldn't stand out regardless. Normally I'd dismiss it as a so-so book: well-enough written and plotted to be worth reading if it sounds like your thing, definitely not a can't-miss. Anne Bogel put it on her minimalist summer reading guide, though! I'd love to know why. Our reading tastes aren't perfect...
  • Olga Fry
    I very much enjoyed Lucy Tan's debut fiction novel, "What We Were Promised." The book focuses on one family and two people floating in their orbit. The Zhen family is comprised of Lina, Wei, and their daughter Karen, none of whom are close to each other, much less have active conversations. While Qiang is Wei's brother, they haven't heard from him since their wedding day nearly 20 years ago. The second person in their orbit is Sunny. When first i...
  • Linda Hutchinson
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ If you read my reviews, you know that I like to keep them succinct. This is the first book in a long time that is hard to describe in a limited number of words. A character drive novel set in modern day Shanghai revolves around four people, Wei (the wealthy father and family provider), Lina (married to Wei and unfulfilled), Qiang (Wei’s bad boy brother), and Sunny (the maid turned nanny for the family). Post-revolutionary China ...
  • Carol (Reading Ladies)
    2.5 stars. I’m underwhelmed. The first 90% of the story is build up and in the last 10% some important themes are introduced and the story ends. I thought what was brought up at the end was life changing, interesting, and important (avoiding spoilers here) and the story needed more time to explore the implications and how the disclosure will change their lives. As plot twists go, I thought it was fascinating and intriguing. The characters are n...
  • Readingbringsjoy
    Thank you Littlebrown for the free review copyWhat we were promised was a book that was on my radar because the description sounded exactly like my type of story. An interesting setting, a family recently coming into a lot of money, a long lost brother returning after years of being estranged, and lingering feelings left over after an arranged marriage. The lovely @annebogel helped put this book at the top of my list by adding it to her summer re...
  • Afoma Umesi
    Thanks to Little Brown for a free ARC of this book! WHAT WE WERE PROMISED is the enthralling story of Chinese family forced, by the return of a prodigal son, to address familial issues and unfulfilled promises.I was struck by the poignancy of her deceptively simple style, barely ten pages in! This book is full of astute observations about life, love, and the choices we make for the people we love. Combined with compelling characters, the mystery...
  • Charlsa
    There has been so much hype about this up and coming author. I was disappointed. The story plodded along. None of the characters were particularly likeable. The author took too long to develop the characters but little time on telling the story and bringing it to a conclusion. Just when she finally started telling the story, the book ended. This didn’t read like book one of a series, but if it turns out that is the case, I won’t bother with b...
  • Kate
    I’m so pleasantly surprised! More TK 🙂
  • Anne
    I've been fascinated with Chinese culture ever since I was in college and went on Semester at Sea my junior year. I love everything about it including the rich history and struggles so I was excited to read this novel. At first I had trouble getting into it though as there is so much backstory given to bring the reader up to speed with Lina and her family's present. But then as present and past are interwoven, it becomes clearer and more engaging...
  • Maggie
    Tan's debut novel will definitely put her on the map for her beautiful storytelling and exquisite prose. She eloquently weaves together the characters' lives, flawlessly fusing the past and the present. Each page is filled with such rich detail that you feel as if you are living with the characters in their setting, that you know each of them intimately. At the end, you want the story to continue so you can continue living within their story and ...
  • Sachi Argabright
    I absolutely LOVED this book! Definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year! The characters in this novel were so rich, and I grew to care about them deeply. While I could see Lina as an unlikeable character at times, I related to her early on in the story when she noted that being at ex-pat made her feel “in between.” Being half Asian and half white, I also struggle with feeling like I’m not “fully” white or “fully” Asian. ...
  • Elizabeth
    Well-written but entirely too slow-moving to hold my interest. Still bored after 100+ pages.
  • Julie
    How love is seen differently as we age and when truths are revealed. Good debut novel.
  • Rebecca Akins
    This book was very well written and the author did a great job of weaving the story together. I have this book 3 stars because the story did not hold my attention. I found myself getting distracted while reading and I wasn’t excited to find out what would happen next. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about family dynamics and multicultural families.I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. This in no way affe...
  • Rachel
    A beautifully told story, an advanced copy of which I won here from goodreads!I had read a book (Little Soldiers) just a few weeks ago about Chinese education and culture, so this being a book about Chinese people who live in America and in Shanghai at different periods in the book was a nice coincidence which I felt gave me a little more insight into the values and lifestyles portrayed in the book.This book offers a perspicacious and intelligent...
  • Maggie Boyd
    What We Were Promised is both a look at life in modern day China and an observation on the unchanging nature of humanity. “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” John Donne told us. This book shows that as a universal truth.After years of going to college and then working in America, the small Zhen family of Wei, Lina and Karen have moved back to China. Wei is a success story, having a...
  • Andrea (Born and Read in Chicago)
    Many thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the complimentary digital review copy!This was a slow burn of a novel, that centered mostly on each character's internal life and struggles. The missing bracelet at the beginning of the novel had me intrigued. Was it truly missing? Was it an attempt to replace the maid, or does it have value? What kind of value? The hint of a secret between Lina and her brother in law Qiang is also hinted...
  • Andrea
    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.3.5. I wanted/hoped for more. I may eventually reconsider and round up, but...I typically love/look forward to this genre. But I felt it was somewhat disjointed and choppy. I wanted more of some stories, less of others. When it was good, it was excellent. But it often felt flat. Nonetheless, well-written [no prose had me cringing] and certainly impressive for a debut novel The s...
  • Rachael
    I received a free copy of What We Were Promised via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.What We Were Promised is the story of the Zhen family. After years of living abroad in America, they have come back to Shanghai and are living a life of luxury in a high-rise apartment building. Wei is hardworking and driven, devoted to his high paying and high stakes job, while his wife Lina stays home and em...
  • Rebecca
    Thanks to the publisher, via Netgalley, for an advance e-galley for an honest review!3.5ish stars, rounded up. This book was really excellent when it was telling the story about Lina, Wei, and Qiang and their connection and lives growing up. The story really took its time revealing the secrets between the adults, and when the ultimate story is dropped, it was worth the wait. The last quarter of so of the book, in general, is worth the wait that i...
  • Rachel Brown
    I really enjoyed What We Were Promised. I loved the well-roundness of each of the characters—I liked that they weren't perfect, that they had relatable internal struggles, that they were all seeking a little something more out of life. I probably could have used a bit more of a climax/game-changing incident, although—no spoilers—there is a good twist in the plot that was engaging. I recommend this book, and I look forward to more of Lucy Ta...
  • Cassidy
    Enjoyable, if not especially memorable. I enjoyed a perspective I don’t often read about (wealthy Chinese ex-pats and their help) and the stories of their past and present.
  • Lisa
    2.5 stars, three is generous
  • Jaclyn
    I love that this book is about a Chinese family who moved to America, then back to China. I don't think I've read many books that tackled that awkwardness of being back home, but it's no longer quite home anymore.I liked the family tensions with the long-lost brother, how the move to America and class differences in both brothers' lives have coloured that tension, and how the family ayi Sunny can see it all happening. I wish there had been more c...