The Fortunes

by Peter Davies

From the best-selling, acclaimed author of The Welsh Girl comes a groundbreaking, provocative new novel recasting American history through the lives of Chinese Americans.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9781328745484
  • ISBN-10: 1328745481
  • Pages: 288
  • Publication Date: 09/12/2017
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award 

    for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity 


    Winner of the 2017 Chautauqua Prize 


    Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize 


    A New York Times Notable Book 


    “[A] complex, beautiful novel . . . Stunning.”—NPR, Best Books of 2016 


    “Davies [is] a master storyteller.”—Entertainment Weekly 


    “Intense and dreamlike . . . filled with quiet resonances across time.”—The New Yorker 


    Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience. 


    Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor; Hollywood’s first Chinese movie star; a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes the Asian American community; and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood. 


    “A prophetic work, with passages of surpassing beauty.”—Joyce Carol Oates, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award citation 


    “A poignant, cascading four-part novel . . . Outstanding.”—David Mitchell, Guardian 


    “The most honest, unflinching, cathartically biting novel I’ve read about the Chinese American experience.”—Celeste Ng

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  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
  • Reviews
    Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards 

    Winner of the 2017 Chautauqua Prize 

    Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize 

    A New York Times Notable Book  

    A New York Times Editors' Choice 

    Longlisted for The Story Prize 

    One of NPR's "Best Books of 2016" 

    A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016 

    An Indie Next Pick (September 2016) 


    "Davies, a master storyteller, blends fact with fiction in this saga of immigration, acclimation, and Chinese culture, which he tells through the experiences of Chinese-Americans at different points in history."—Entertainment Weekly, "12 must-read novels out this fall" 


    “Davies writes with a rare emotional resonance and a deft sense of structure; it's hard not to be in awe of the way he's composed this complex, beautiful novel. The Fortunes is a stunning look at what it means to be Chinese, what it means to be American, and what it means to be a person navigating the strands of identity, the things that made us who we are, whoever that is.”—NPR 


    "[A] rewarding, unorthodox novel."—Wall Street Journal 


    “Intense and dreamlike . . . filled with quiet resonances across time . . . The Fortunes is powerful as a chronicle of perpetual frustration, as each new generation grows aware of the arbitrary line between margin and mainstream . . . What makes The Fortunes so hopeful, the type of novel that could have only been written now, is its willingness to take liberties with that past—to rearrange its details and indulge in speculation, in order to help us imagine a different way forward.”The New Yorker 


    "In naming the given scripts of culture, as well as pushing against them, Davies’ characters struggle to belong — not only to race or to history or to stories, but also simply to themselves. And Davies, ever deft, points us into the messy complexity of identity with compassion and nuance, urging us each on toward spaces where we honor and move more freely within what he calls our 'uncertain and contradictory' selves." -- San Francisco Chronicle 


    “A prophetic work, with passages of surpassing beauty...The Fortunes is a boldly imagined work of fiction in which historic figures come to an astonishingly vivid, visceral life through the power of Peter Ho Davies’s prose.”—Joyce Carol Oates, Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards citation 


    "The Fortunes masterfully captures a century of history and the survival of an immigrant community caught between two cultures."—Buzzfeed, "21 Incredible New Books You Need To Read This Fall" 


    "Davies distills 150 years of Chinese-American history in his timely and eloquent new novel. In Gold, the first of its four sections, Ah Ling, 14, the son of a Hong Kong prostitute, seeks his fortune in California. He works as valet to Charles Crocker, who hires thousands of Chinese to expand his transcontinental railroad. Silver portrays the 30-year career of the LA-born actress Anna May Wong, who co-stars with Douglas Fairbanks at 19.  Davies also writes of Vincent Chin, beaten to death in Detroit in 1982 by two auto workers who mistake him for Japanese, and of a half-Chinese writer visiting China to adopt a baby daughter, thinking of how to prepare her to answer the question he’s heard all his life: where are you from?"—, "Ten Books You Should Read This September" 


    "The Fortunes crafts four tales that speak of the broader history of Chinese immigrants in the United States, from the hardworking valet who serves a white railroad mogul to Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star. Through these elegant, deeply embodied stories, Davies portrays the uneasy relationship between these people and their new country."—Elle, "The 11 Best Books for September 2016" 


    "[The Fortunes] is somehow both meticulously crafted—meticulously researched historical detail, exquisitely constructed sentences—and a white-hot outpouring of anger...[Its] four-part structure, and its conscious imitation of the multi-generational family epic, makes a profound thematic argument...I found Davies’s novel thrilling and validating...[it] suggested something I had seldom seen elsewhere: Asian-American is a distinct identity, distinct from our ancestors’ nations of origin, and distinct from our current countrymen. It’s not a bungled merging of two identities, not a failure to be authentically American and a failure to be authentically Asian. Not 'caught between two worlds,' as we are often said to be, but its own world altogether."—Kim Fu, Hazlitt 


    The Fortunes is the kind of book that raises far more questions than it resolves. Not only does it present a vast swathe of often-ignored history, in deftly fictionalized form, it’s an empathetic book, not just to its protagonists but to its secondary and tertiary characters and even, often, to its villains. It questions motivations, feelings, intentions, rarely certain despite the author’s fictional imperative. Sometimes I found myself wondering ? why is Vincent Chin’s friend curious at all about the kind of father-stepson relationship Chin’s killers had? Why should I care?  But The Fortunes isn’t out to convince you that you should care about that, or anything in particular. Instead, it’s doing what a great novel should do: revealing what there is to care about and to think about. Even better, it’s revealing those questions about a slice of history that America needs to be dealing with.  The Bottom Line: In a thought-provoking, sharply written, four-part novelistic chronicle of Chinese-American life, The Fortunes proves uneven at times but the powerful prose and themes shine through.”—Huffington Post 


    “Vividly detailed novellas whose rich language and engaging characters not only bring history alive but also address contemporary issues of race and belonging with heartache, fire and empathy . . . The Fortunes is an important novel that attempts to give voice to Chinese-American characters who have been silenced in the past. Ho Davies' perspective is a welcome addition in the ongoing discussion of race in American society.”Dallas Morning News 


    “A powerful novel that unflinchingly examines both the degrading lives of immigrants in the 1800s and the identity crises of modern mixes-race families. Throughout it all, Davies remains sympathetic to his heroes—although they have been all but lost in the flow of history, a deft hand can still pull them into prominence…The brilliance of The Fortunes is not that it expertly dissects Chinese American-ness--or American-ness, for that matter. Davies has conjured a book that forces its readers to find the pressures they face in their own lives, to see how the struggle of self-identity and one's place in the world is alive in each and every one of us."—Shelf Awareness 


    "Absorbing."New York Daily News, "7 books to read in September" 


    "The book is more than the sum of it...