An explosion reverberates through the Swan Hotel in Shanghai, and it is not just shards of glass and rubble that come crashing down. Li Jing and Zhou Meiling find their marriage rocked to its foundations by the loss of the language that brought them together. For Li Jing, who is injured in the explosion, awakens from brain surgery only able to utter the unsteady phrases of English he learn as a child – a language that Meiling and their young son Pang Pang cannot speak.
When an American neurologist arrives, tasked with coaxing language back on to Li Jing’s tongue, she is as disorientated as her patient in this bewitching, bewildering city. As doctor and patient sit together, feelings neither of them anticipated begin to take hold. Feelings that Meiling, who must fight to keep both her husband’s business and her family afloat, does not need a translator to understand.
What I do know about this language is that it is not easy to learn unless you are brought up in that land of Shanghai. It does sound a little bit like Mandarin mix with Teochew and Hokkien, maybe even Hockchew dialect. There are some parts that sound like lazy slurs, speaking with closed mouth.
I’ve been to China 5 times without knowing the Chinese Language, driven on the road without knowing how to read the name of places but getting to the destination. But I know I’ll be totally lost in Shanghai unless I have someone bringing me around.
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