Joan is Okay by Weike Wang: A review
Fang became an extremely successful hedge fund manager, meeting all his parents' expectations. He married and had a couple of children and he and his family now live on a rather palatial ten-acre compound in Greenwich, Connecticut. He pressures Joan to leave the hospital ICU, move to Greenwich and open a private practice there. When their father dies in China, he and Joan travel there. Joan stays for two days. Fang stays for two weeks. Later their mother comes back to America and stays with Fang and his family. She and Fang increase the pressure on Joan.
Joan has no real friends but when Mark moves in across the hall from her, he inserts himself into her life. When he sees her apartment and realizes it is essentially unfurnished, he starts giving her things to make the place a bit homier. Or what he sees as homier. Joan is oblivious. She's perfectly happy with what she has. Her interactions with Mark are the most normal social interactions she has and one somehow expects their relationship to develop into something deeper, but of course, it is not to be.
If you are beginning to suspect that Joan is just a bit strange, you are not wrong. She is smart but extremely introverted and with limited social skills. Her first impression of the people she meets is always defined by their height and weight. She shows classic signs of Asperger's syndrome, characterized by repetitive patterns of behavior, restricted interests, and difficulties with social interactions. She is in her mid-thirties and is being pressured by her family to get married and have kids. Her sister-in-law expresses the opinion that she will not be a real woman until that happens.
Joan narrates her story and it reads almost like an autobiography. As we approach the end, the coronavirus pandemic is getting underway and it affects Joan personally. The ending felt a bit abrupt, probably because I had become invested in Joan and I wanted to see her story continue to a "happily ever after." She is a memorable and very real character. I still find myself wondering how she is coping. If Weike Wang ever decided to write another book featuring her, I would certainly read it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars