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Review: The Natural Laws of Good Luck

August 22, 2009

The Natural Laws of Good Luck

Ellen Graf was a divorced, single mother and artist.   She wasn’t having any luck with love, even after trying the personal ads.  When a Chinese-American friend suggested fixing Ellen up with her brother, Lu Zhong-hua, who still lived in China, Ellen decided it’s worth a try.

Ellen flew to China to meet Zhong-hua and they decided to get married while she’s there, in spite of the fact that they’ve just met and neither speaks the other one’s language.   After their marriage, Ellen has to return to the States and wait while her new husband gets a visa.  In the meantime, they’re each taking classes in the other’s native tongue.  A year and a half later, Zhong-hua comes to America to live with is wife and her teen-age daughter.  Ellen and Zhong-hua have some cultural differences and face financial difficulties plus health problems, but somehow they make it all work.

The Natural Laws of Good Luck by Ellen Graf is the story of her life with her new husband Lu Zhong-hua.  I have to admit that I thought she was crazy when I first started reading the book.  I mean, who would fly thousands of miles to meet someone and then marry them right away?  I was engrossed in the story as I read it and found Ellen and her children to be incredibly open and loving people.  It was interesting to read about Zhong-hua’s assimilation into American culture – some of his attitudes served as a gentle reminder that we don’t always value the right things in this country.  I did feel like Ellen was making more of the compromises in their marriage, and at times that really irritated me.  Between that and the continued use of broken English by Zhong-hua, the book was just okay for me.  (I do realize that Zhong-hua speaks that way, but reading things like, “Make ten dollars, spend ten dollars buy gas.  No money pay church.  I just think, what time I get – that time I pay.”  just aggravated me after a while.)  I do appreciate the fact that Ellen and her husband have bridged cultural differences to form a strong relationship.

Review copy provided by Trumpeter Books via Library Thing‘s Early Reviewer program.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2009 6:33 am

    This sounds so fascinating. I am intrigued by all of the things that you mentioned. I have heard of people getting married right away and under interesting circumstances, but the language thing is crazy. That that takes it completely to another level.

  2. August 22, 2009 7:12 am

    Sounds good to me. But it is hard to get that someone can be so impulsive in taking such imp decisions of one’s life. But they made it work, so I guess it’s allright:)

  3. August 22, 2009 7:43 am

    That’s an interesting concept for a book–not your average memoir for sure. But I think I would probably be bugged by the same things you were.

  4. August 22, 2009 8:27 am

    I can’t imagine doing something like this, no matter how lonely I felt. (I don’t think this book would appeal to me because of that).

  5. August 22, 2009 9:02 am

    I’m not sure I could relate to them — I just don’t picture myself flying halfway around the world just to meet a man and then getting married right away, especially if I had kids.

  6. August 22, 2009 9:04 am

    That was a lot of travel for a first date. If they didn’t know each other’s language how did they know that marriage was the discussion point? Did they use interpreters? My mind is going off into different directions thinking of the practicalities of such a situation. Might be worth reading to answer some of these questions.

  7. August 22, 2009 9:46 am

    I agree with you – I can’t stand when the narrator uses that sort of stereotyped broken English in a book about Asians.

    Otherwise, it sounds like it has interesting metaphorical promise. Because really, when you get married, it’s all about learning the other partner’s language, I think.

    Nice review (and great cover!)

  8. August 22, 2009 11:07 am

    I know I personally would not do such a thing…I tend to imagine strangers as serial murderers (too much Ann Rule apparently). But many people are in impossible situations and would do anything to get out of it. In other cultures, too, women will always be the ones to make the sacrifices. Which is something I cannot relate to, but am always interested in.

  9. August 22, 2009 12:04 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting story! Goes to prove that truth can be stranger than fiction.

  10. August 22, 2009 12:57 pm

    This books sounds interesting. I don’t mind when the writing reflects the cultural way someone speaks but sometimes I find it distracting. My brain doesn’t always pick it up easy and I have to “work” harder to comprehend. Nice review. I think it is cool to read different books.

  11. August 22, 2009 1:28 pm

    I think it sounds great…very authentic. Yes?

  12. August 22, 2009 2:39 pm

    Couldn’t imagine marrying someone after briefly meeting them. Interesting concept and I’m sure that we do forget what truly is important living here in the land of plenty. Great review.

  13. August 22, 2009 2:47 pm

    The circumstances of their marriage are definitely different. My parents met in another country and married and each could barely speak each others language but they eventually learned. I can’t imagine how they did it and my mother had to adjust to a new country here in the US and learn a new language, meet in-laws etc. They have been married 50 years now, some bumpy years along the way but they persevered.

  14. August 22, 2009 3:17 pm

    A fascinating memoir – but I would have been aggravated by the choppiness as well.

  15. August 22, 2009 3:29 pm

    Seriously? They got married without speaking each other’s language?? It boggles my mind.

    Otherwise, great review.

  16. justicejenniferreads permalink
    August 22, 2009 3:40 pm

    Sounds like an intriguing book. The story and all the possible outlets for discussion make it sound worthwhile despite the choppiness. Thanks for the review!

  17. August 22, 2009 4:08 pm

    I was thinking she was crazy, too, by the description! Sheesh. I mean, she must have really wanted a partner to go to China.

  18. August 22, 2009 9:25 pm

    Sounds really good. I have it marked down to check out. Great review Kathy.

  19. August 22, 2009 10:30 pm

    Okay. This is more of a risk than I think I could take. Though I did marry a Salvadoran man that I hardly knew. And he’s still my husband.

  20. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 23, 2009 12:31 am

    What an ineresting true story. She does sound a little crazy. What would I do if a friend called me telling me whe was flying to China to get set up? I’m not sure how supportive I’d be. Kudos to her for doing something that took great courage!

  21. August 23, 2009 9:06 am

    I love the concept and the cover (shallow, I know, can’t help it) enough to perhaps pick it up. I like the inter cultural aspect of it.

  22. August 23, 2009 10:47 am

    Interesting … you know I enjoy personal memoir, too.

    LibraryThing books can be hit or miss, but I don’t mind taking that chance on that … since we *might* get a book once a month (the “surprise” isn’t the bulk of my reading)

    Nice review, Kathy … what a wild story!

  23. August 23, 2009 12:10 pm

    I think the plot sounds fun and interesting, but for some reason (and do not ask why) I have a thing with literature involving anything Chinese – its just not my thing. I have, of course, nothing at all against Chinese people, I find their culture fascinating, but I just don’t want to read about it….

  24. August 24, 2009 4:12 am

    Wow….I love the plot and this is definitely something I would love to read. Nice title too.

  25. August 24, 2009 9:18 pm

    Well i sure think she is crazy! Gosh! who will do that?
    But still it is intriguing!

  26. August 26, 2009 5:52 pm

    Hmm…I don’t think this one is for me. Thanks for the review though!

  27. August 31, 2009 1:55 pm

    I think I’ll pass on this one, but it does sound like an interesting story. Why would they get married right away, especially with the language barrier? Still, I think reading all that broken English would frustrate me after a while. Great review, though.

    –Anna

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