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The Foreigner: A Novel [Paperback]

Francie Lin

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Book Description

May 27 2008

Winner of the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel by an American Author

Set against the Taiwanese criminal underworld,
The Foreigner is Francie Lin's audacious debut novel. A noirish tale about family, fraternity, conscience, and the curious gulf between a man's culture and his deepest self

Emerson Chang is a mild mannered bachelor on the cusp of forty, a financial analyst in a neatly pressed suit, a child of Taiwanese immigrants who doesn't speak a word of Chinese, and, well, a virgin. His only real family is his mother, whose subtle manipulations have kept him close--all in the name of preserving an obscure idea of family and culture.

But when his mother suddenly dies, Emerson sets out for Taipei to scatter her ashes, and to convey a surprising inheritance to his younger brother, Little P. Now enmeshed in the Taiwanese criminal underworld, Little P seems to be running some very shady business out of his uncle's karaoke bar, and he conceals a secret--a crime that has not only severed him from his family, but may have annihilated his conscience. Hoping to appease both the living and the dead, Emerson isn’t about to give up the inheritance until he uncovers Little P's past, and saves what is left of his family.

The Foreigner is a darkly comic tale of crime and contrition, and a riveting story about what it means to be a foreigner--even in one's own family.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (May 27 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312364040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312364045
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,358,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In Lin's stunning debut, a crime novel set in Taiwan, Emerson Chang, a 40-year-old virgin who's a financial analyst, travels from San Francisco to Taipei on a quest to scatter his mother's ashes and re-establish contact with his shady younger brother, Little P, who's been bequeathed the family hotel. At a meeting with Little P, Chang encounters two peculiar cousins, Poison and Big One, as well as Little P's devious friend, Li An-Qing (aka Atticus), who's anxious to get Little P to sell the family hotel to him. Emerson soon finds himself mixed up in machinations involving Atticus and extortion due to Little P's unsavory dealings. In addition, Emerson loses his job back in California, and the property he's inherited in Taipei turns out to have its own mysteries. Chang's distinctive voice propels a strong and original plot, with horrifying revelations. Taut, smart and often funny, this novel will satisfy readers of thrillers and general fiction alike. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Genre-wise, The Foreigner is best described as a thriller, rife with murders, drugs, secrets and betrayals. But you won't find any of the cardboard characters, clunky writing, or clichéd conventions that too often mar suspense fiction. Lin is equally attentive to description and plot. . . . Lovely, detailed writing makes you care about what happens to these characters. . . . A sequel would prove most welcome."---Los Angeles Times

"Lin demonstrates admirable range and skill in The Foreigner. She's capable of writing both marvelous humor and scenes of utter darkness in her tale of a naive man at a complete loss for dealing with the world."---San Francisco Chronicle

"Lin has much to say about the clast of East and West and the sometimes shaky bonds of family, wrapping her sly observations in an entertaining coating of ever-propulsive narrative that turns Emerson from a rich boy into a warier, sleeker, wiser man."---The Baltimore Sun

"[A] darkly funny debut."---Kirkus Reviews

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.9 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Tedious July 28 2009
By Buzz - Published on
Because of the good reviews and the award that The Foreigner received, I read the entire book, but, about half way through, I think it was sheer stubbornness that kept me going. The synopsis of the plot promised much, but failed to deliver. The motivations of the characters was never explained; apparently their actions were clear enough for the writer. Although there was some suspense about the nature of the activities of the Twainese brother, it was drawn out and by the time I found out what it did, I had long ago ceased to care. The protagonist, although admirable in many respects, was not interesting and, again, his character and motivations were not explained. As for the two cultures, Chinese and American, there was no attempt by the author to devle into them, and this book in no way added to my understanding of the Chinese experience in the US or the expat experience in Tawain. Ultimately, I felt disappointed in myself for spending the time to finish the novel. Francie Lin is a talented writer, but this novel is only a beginning, one with which I did not need to be associated.
19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He sounds like a woman Aug. 28 2008
By T. Wang - Published on
I read this book was because my friend gave it to me as a gift and as a Taiwanese. I thought it would be fun to read a intercultural story which was about to my hometown.

I really have to say this story features a very unlikable character. Emerson, our leading man, has no personality. He said bunch Intellectual stuff and tried to express some emotion here there. However, I never felt authentic about this character and had hard time to have sympathy toward his situation in the story.
Especially, to me, Emerson sounded like a ~~ woman. That made me wonder if Lin was able to separate herself when she was writing about this male character.

Anyway, the biggest problem for me is that the weak characters fail to lead me deeper into the story but I am glad that Lin chose Taipei, my home city as the background for her story.

Thanks very much.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul Auster special Aug. 2 2010
By adiron - Published on
Verified Purchase
This is a crazy strange book in which the purpose of the action defines the soul of the protagonist. The action does not stand alone, and is not the point. It's a disturbing book; as I became more involved and finished it, my mood mirrored Emerson, the main character. Saying that, I realize Ms. Lin is trusting her readers to join the ride, which I did. The ride is epitomized in the scene where Emerson and his 'girlfriend' are hiding in a dark cocoon like booth that suddenly turns on and takes them on a strange automobile ride. If anything, I'm reminded of Paul Auster.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I was expecting May 6 2010
By dd676 - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This novel was just OK, not at all as suspenseful as I hoped. I actually had a hard time paying attention, it never really captured me. I guess it was just hard to empathize at all with the main character, which goes to perhaps its strong suit: exposing casual mystery readers such as myself to an entirely different culture. As pure entertainment though it falls short.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing March 13 2010
By Mark - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This isn't really much of a thriller. It's a book about a Chinese-American mammas boy who grows up a bit after being thrown into the muck and slime of Taiwan. Although the author writes well her story is relentlessly depressing from basically the first page until the second to last page. I did like the quality of the paperbook binding though.....

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