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Extended Audio Sample The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai: A Novel, by Ruiyan Xu Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (293 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ruiyan Xu Narrator: Angela Dawe Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Li Jing, a high-flying financier, has just joined his father for dinner at the grand Swan Hotel in central Shanghai when, without warning, the ground begins to rumble, shifts, then explodes in a roar of hot, unfurling air. As Li Jing drags his unconscious father out of the collapsing building, a single shard of glass whistles through the air and neatly pierces his forehead. In an instant, Li Jing’s ability to speak Chinese is obliterated.

After weeks in a hospital, all that emerge from Li Jing’s mouth are unsteady phrases of the English he spoke as a child growing up in Virginia. His wife, Zhou Meiling, whom he courted with beautiful words, finds herself on the other side of an abyss, unable to communicate with her husband and struggling to put on a brave face for the sake of Li Jing’s floundering company and for their son, Pang Pang.

Rosalyn Neal, a neurologist who specializes in Li Jing’s condition—bilingual aphasia—arrives from the United States to work with Li Jing, to coax language back onto his tongue. Rosalyn is red-haired, open-hearted, recently divorced, and as lost as Li Jing in this bewitching, bewildering city. As doctor and patient sit together, sharing their loneliness along with their faltering words, feelings neither of them anticipated begin to take hold—feelings Meiling does not need a translator to understand.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Set in a dense, dizzyingly urban Shanghai, Xu’s elegant first novel affectingly addresses the way identity and language intertwine and the emotional anguish of estrangement.”


Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Darshan Elena | 2/16/2014

    " I was excited to read this novel, as I have a keen interest in language and medicine. While the beginning of the novel maintained my interest, as the plot veered towards the expected but unfortunate, I became disaffected. Strong term that true; I just couldn't bear witness to the characters' dissolution. I imagine their redemption awaits; I just won't know for sure... Apologies if this is a spoiler. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Cyndi | 2/10/2014

    " Let's give this one a 2.5. It's a first novel and it reads like one. Flowery descriptions, banal plot lines, surface characterizations. It starts of interesting (the 3) with a brain injury, aphasia, and family dynamics. Then it devolves (the 2) into a love triangle without purpose. I kept having to put the book down and take a break before reading more. But at least I had enough motivation to finish it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Salome | 1/25/2014

    " I bought this book without knowing much about it. I thought it would go much more into the language therapy and the difficulties faced by Li Jing on his way to recovery. Unfortunately, the book explains very little about the therapy and instead focuses on a pretty standard love story. So, I am giving it a 2* for its descriptions of Shanghai and China's country side, but as far as the story goes, I found it very mediocre. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Erica | 1/24/2014

    " This book is really terrible. I was horrified by the story, but not in the way that the author intended... this book is about a hugely inappropriate doctor. Seriously, what kind of professional acts like that? Moving in with her patient, going to the spa and shopping with the patient's wife... oh it goes on and on and gets even worse. I shudder to think of it. "

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About the Author

Ruiyan Xu, born in Shanghai, moved to the United States at the age of ten without speaking a word of English. She graduated from Brown University with honors in creative writing; won the 2004 Hochstadt Award from Hedgebrook and a 2005 Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists; and has been awarded residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Jentel, Ragdale, and the Anderson Center. Xu lives in Brooklyn, where she works as an interactive producer at P.O.V., the independent documentary series on PBS.