by Weike Wang
Publication Date January 18, 2022
Published by Random House Publishing Group
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Genres: Fiction / Asian American, Fiction / Family Life / General, Fiction / Women
A witty, moving, piercingly insightful new novel about a marvelously complicated woman who can’t be anyone but herself, from the award-winning author of Chemistry
“A deeply felt portrait . . . With gimlet-eyed observation laced with darkly biting wit, Weike Wang masterfully probes the existential uncertainty of being other in America.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
Joan is a thirtysomething ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.
Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.
Deceptively spare yet quietly powerful, laced with sharp humor, Joan Is Okay touches on matters that feel deeply resonant: being Chinese-American right now; working in medicine at a high-stakes time; finding one’s voice within a dominant culture; being a woman in a male-dominated workplace; and staying independent within a tight-knit family. But above all, it’s a portrait of one remarkable woman so surprising that you can’t get her out of your head.
Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang is first-person account of Joan’s life as a New York City physician. Joan has a very unique point of view on almost everything. She works as a doctor in New York City during the COVID outbreak, but the book isn’t all about the pandemic, and mostly just touches on it for a part of the book. Joan is a very interesting person, and her outlook on life is different and interesting.
Joan is a doctor in an intensive care unit at a New York City hospital. She’s the daughter of Chinese immigrants and has one brother, Fang. Once Joan and Fang were settled and in college, Joan’s parents returned to China. However, when Joan’s father suddenly passes away, Joan’s mother returns to the US to live with Joan’s brother Fang, and his family in Connecticut. Her mother’s return causes Joan to change her very insular life and move outside her comfort zone. When the COVID 19 pandemic hits New York City, Joan has to deal with her patients, but what is more difficult for Joan, is dealing with her mother, who can’t travel back to China due to flight restrictions.
The writing for Joan is Okay is different and fascinating. It’s told from Joan’s point of view, and she has a unique and interesting look at life. The book follows her problems with her family and her work as an ICU physician, especially during a pandemic. I enjoyed her neighbor Mark, and her interactions with him. Her brother Fang is very successful and takes on the father role for Joan, which she is not happy about.
I recommend Joan is Okay to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction and literary fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.