Excerpt from The Lost Daughter of Happiness by Geling Yan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Lost Daughter of Happiness

By Geling Yan

The Lost Daughter of Happiness
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: May 2002,
    288 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


It was said that Ah Ding was good at jumping into the sea and disappearing. And each and everytime, he would resurface on the streets three months later.

But not this time. Three months passed, and he wasn't standing at the counter of Daiji pawnshop redeeming his emerald pocket watch. Nor was he lounging on a chaise at Chan bathhouse having his foot-long black mane washed, or leaning in the doorway of Zhangji's fish market, his Stetson pulled low, gulping down a bowl of water full of thrashing tadpoles. Every other time, invariably someone would bow to him and say, So, Ah Ding, you're back.

Ah Ding would snarl, Whaddya mean, back? Wasn't I sleeping with your wife just last night?

Soon he was ancient history in a city that grew as fast as cancer and came up with tall tales daily.

Only the prostitutes who bought his picture could prove he'd ever been here at all. At the age of seventeen, Ah Ding began printing nude photos of himself to sell to hookers. The first buyers were South American and Polish and then gradually the Chinese. He never got more than seventy cents for them and never sold them himself; he had vendors of hair oil, ribbons, and chignon blossoms peddle them up and down the streets. While he wasn't the most handsome man around, his amazing ability to be offensive matched the evil of the city notorious for it. The hookers bought his photo for its magical powers, to use evil to ward off evil.

By the third year, no one even remembered to wonder whether Ah Ding would return or not. The little baby girl he'd strangled to death had become a mound of earth. The little teeth that had once vaguely entertained the notion of biting someone were now chewing on the roots of spring flowers and autumn grasses. The foreign histories a hundred years later barely mentioned her at all: "The youngest of the Chinese girls sold into prostitution here was five months old.'

One day, two whites came to Chinatown, barged into the fruit shop, the jeweler's, and the pedicurist's, and forced the cashiers to hand over the money through the slot in the wire mesh. Their last stop was the herbalist's, where they set piles of medicinal roots and bark on fire. People finally believed that Ah Ding and his daggers were no more.

With Ah Ding gone, whites routinely strolled in and out of shops and took the cash.

Most of the girls who escaped the police roundup that night were dead by now, killed by disease, by a fight, by who knows what.

Fusang was the one who didn't die.

Fusang, who in two years had aborted five pregnancies with caustic drugs, had a rounder face now. She went out around noon with Ah Cha and Ah Jiao to buy a few feet of satin to make embroidered shoe tops.

The three women walked in front, and a thug followed a few paces behind, to make sure they didn't run off. Once the women's pace quickened, he hopped on his horse. When the streets got crowded, he stayed on horseback to keep an eye on the women's every intention, however minor it might be.

The women stopped at a fruit stand to buy slices of pineapple, and then bought pouches of fried river snails and barbecued duck livers at a food stand. They didn't pay for any of it. Thanking the vendors, they walked off eating and the thug came behind and settled up.

As they passed Chan bathhouse, the women slowed down. A few hundred men were going in one door and coming out another. When they went in they were heavier and darker and when they came out they were thinner, their faces lighter. The men going in the front door undressed and handed their clothes to an attendant, who took them to a pawnshop. He stopped and bought new clothes on his way back, returning just in time to give them to the men as they climbed out of the water.

Rid of lice, beard, tartar, and long finger-and toenails, the men coming out the back door of the bathhouse gave off warm steam, as if they had just been blanched. Brothel madams always checked the men's nails; they had to be clipped to the nub and filed smooth so the girls weren't left covered with scratches by the end of the night.

From The Lost Daughter of Happiness, copyright (c) 2001, Hyperion Press. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.