Review: Lotus

Review for "Lotus" by Lijia Zhang (to be published on 10 January 2017)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

‘Lotus’ is a buildungsroman of a young woman from present-day China. With her mother dead and her father living as an abusive drunk, Lotus dreams of a better life and leaves her rural village to seek work in one of the large factories on the coast. Nearly all of her money goes home to care for her younger brother, who also dreams of leaving the village and enrolling in college. When a fire breaks out at the factory, she does not return home but remains in the city and finds work as a ji, a prostitute, at a low-budget massage parlor.

Enter Bing, an older, middle aged photographer. He’s divorced with a young daughter. He begins taking photos of the ji he encounters in his ramshackle neighborhood and finds his calling in telling their stories to the world. One of the ji that he photographs is Lotus. Together they eventually form a relationship that transform both of their lives.

This story is told through the dual perspective of Lotus and Bing. Personally I liked Lotus’ chapters a lot better, they’re crisper and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting. Bing grows too as a person, though not in the same manner as Lotus. This novel documents how these young women, the ji navigate the perils of modern China–corrupt police, filial responsibility, their assigned roles as the lowest of the low in society.

There’s quite a few sex scenes in this book (ooh la la!), although I don’t think their purpose here is to titillate the reader. Although the main character’s work and experiences as a prostitute are emphasized, it’s not the bulk of the novel, which I liked. There’s also a lot of general scenes that could have been edited out just for clarity, though that’s forgivable for now (this is a galley copy, btw).

Three stars and a half stars here.

[Note: A free digital copy was provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]