Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu

Oh, I wanted to love this book. It's the story of Li Jing who survives an explosion at a hotel in Shanghai, but suffers a head injury that robs him of his ability to speak Chinese. The condition is called Broca's aphasia, and the hospital is forced to hire an American doctor who specializes in bilingual aphasia. The concept grabbed me immediately not only because I love the setting, but because I previously worked as a speech pathologist. My favorite assignment was at a head injury clinic. I looked forward to learning more about this type of aphasia.
Although I think this book had great potential, the only thing that I really loved about it were the descriptions of Shanghai. The two things that I didn't like about it were the characters and the ending. I won't give away the ending, but I will say that I was frustrated with how it just dropped off. The characters were difficult to care about overall, but I could not stand the American neurologist. This patient needed a specialist enough that the hospital was willing to bring one in from America, but she revealed that she had "limited expertise in rehabilitation...and spoke no Chinese at all." Oh yeah, and she was drunk when she applied online. She wanted to get away from her bad divorce so she went to Shanghai. As the story went on she did a lot of partying and decided that it's okay to get involved with your patients. Li Jing and his wife, Meiling, also got on my nerves. They were both so self-involved, and I didn't feel that they were doing much in the interests of their son. As far as learning more about aphasia...I don't feel like I got much. This was a disappointing read. I would give it between a 2-3. 

1 comment:

TheBookGirl said...

What a shame this didn't work out for you, particularly since you had a particular connection to the subject matter.