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.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • NPR • Real Simple
“Utterly absorbing.”—Celeste Ng • “A marvel of a first novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
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.
Praise for A River of Stars
“[A] powerful debut.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Hua’s story spins with wild fervor, with charming protagonists fiercely motivated by maternal and survival instincts.”—USA Today
“Hua’s epic A River of Stars follows a pair of pregnant Chinese immigrant women—two of the more vibrant characters I’ve come across in a while—on the lam from Los Angeles to San Francisco’s Chinatown.”—R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries, in Esquire
About the Author
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 River of Stars splits the ‘Chinese immigrant story’ into a kaleidoscopic spectrum, putting human faces to the many groups—rich and poor, privileged and marginalized, documented and not—who come to America. Vanessa Hua’s debut is an utterly absorbing novel about the ruthless love of parenthood and the universal truth that sometimes family runs deeper than blood alone.”—Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
“[A] powerful debut.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Vanessa Hua’s story spins with wild fervor, with charming protagonists fiercely motivated by maternal and survival instincts. A River of Stars is a migrant narrative tenderly constructed around Scarlett’s quest to carve a life for her daughter and herself at the risk of deportation.”—USA Today
“Vanessa Hua’s epic A River of Stars follows a pair of pregnant Chinese immigrant women—two of the more vibrant characters I’ve come across in a while—on the lam from Los Angeles to San Francisco’s Chinatown.”—R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries, in Esquire
“A delightful novel of motherhood and Chinese immigration . . . Hua is a breezy, unfussy storyteller and an astute observer. . . . Without wading into policy debates, Ms Hua dramatises the stories and contributions of immigrants who believe in grand ideals and strive to live up to them.”—The Economist
“The most eye-opening literary adventure of the year . . . a spellbinding immersion into one woman’s search for the American Dream.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Vanessa Hua’s page-turner is a powerful look at immigration and identity.”—Us Weekly (“Summer’s Best Send-Offs”)
“Hua’s first novel bristles with timely detail and unexpected pivots, as two desperate women find family and community to support their struggle for freedom.”—BBC (“The 10 Smartest Beach Reads of 2018”)
“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] stellar debut novel.”—Bustle
“A twenty-first-century immigrant story about the terror, drama, and desperation of being undocumented and yet unable to leave.”—The Village Voice
“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
“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 the National Book Award finalist Pachinko