marriage, memoir

The Natural Laws of Good Luck

Author: Ellen Graf
Publisher: Trumpeter Books
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-59030-833-2
Pages: 272
Price: $15.95

Author’s website
Zhong-hua’s brush paintings
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Ellen is forty-six, divorced and lonely, so she doesn’t resist when her Chinese friend suggests maybe Ellen and her brother, Zhong-hua, might like each other. But first Ellen must travel to China to meet him – a man who speaks almost no English. Surprisingly, Ellen and Zhong-hua get along and agree to marry. After processing his immigration paperwork, he finally arrives in upstate New York, where they live in Ellen’s house. Now the fun begins, as Ellen realizes Zhong-hua operates by a whole different cultural standard than she’s used to.

Zhong-hua believes that a man doesn’t need to let his wife know where he is going, and disappears frequently. This might not be such a bad thing, ordinarily, except Zhong-hua gets lost easily, and still doesn’t speak much English. He also doesn’t think it’s necessary to apologize, offer greetings, or do any of the other niceties Ellen expects from a husband. In fact, bumping into her is considered a form of affection.

The house falls into disrepair, several cars and various pieces of machinery meet their ends, and both of their old dogs grow feeble. But when Zhong-hua’s health takes a scary turn, these two mismatched lovers pull together to try to make the best of things.

Although this memoir is touted as being humorous, I found The Natural Laws of Good Luck incredibly touching. Ellen shows remarkable patience with her culturally inept husband, and gives in to his many demands with good grace. Living in a foreign country is hard on Zhong-hua, and Ellen allows for his comfort, even if at times it conflicts with her own. Both strive to be loving and make their marriage work, and it’s encouraging to see them look past their shortcomings to see the good in each other. I highly recommend this wonderfully sweet love story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger