Shanghai Immortal

Chao, A. Y., author. Shanghai Immortal. United Kingdom: Hodderscape, 2023.

Here is the epigraph:


Here are the opening sentences:

“The steaming Shanghai night drapes heavy over my bare shoulders. I lean against the door of a decrepit warehouse, gums aching, stomach grumbling, and wait on Big Wang’s secret delivery.”

Here’s the Kindle version. The hardback version will be released October 31, 2023. According to the author’s siteShanghai Immortal is the first novel in a trilogy.

Here’s the Audible version. Narrator Mei Mei Macleod is exceptional.

Here is a Google doc with excerpts.

Here’s an essay by A. Y. Chao.

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Here’s an excerpt from a review by A. R. James:

“From its sweat-dripping opening to its heartwarming conclusion, Shanghai Immortal is a sumptuous read. Tendrils of mythology weave together with modern characters whom you can’t help but love, and the result is a rich story of enigmatic deities, nether-realm heists and unexpected joy. It explores complex issues of heritage, identity, belonging, and intersectional feminism in a multicultural migrant context. It is a love letter to the author’s Chinese diaspora heritage with a twist of Canadian sensibilities… and—they’re not kidding—a huge amount of sass.”

Charles Dickens is considered one of the greatest writers in the English language.

From Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities:

“A clammy and intensely cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do.”

From Shanghai Immortal:

“The steaming Shanghai night drapes heavy over my bare shoulders. I lean against the door of a decrepit warehouse, gums aching, stomach grumbling, and wait on Big Wang’s secret delivery. Cicadas scream all around me. With a title like Lady Jing of Mount Kunlun and ancestry that includes the great goddess Queen Mother of the West, running errands at 3 a.m. in this rotted heat might be considered below my station.”

Possible book club discussion questions:

  1. What has draped heavy over your shoulders? Perhaps physically – like a steaming Shanghai night – or figuratively, like a burden of some kind?
  2. About what have you ever counted “Yi. Er. San.”?
  3. What in the novel delighted and surprised you?
  4. What made you laugh?
  5. What images and scenes do you still remember, long after finishing the passage? What about them spoke to you or called to you?
  6. What made you uncomfortably aware of personally problematic ways you have of feeling, thinking, acting, interacting, or relating?
  7. Of the relationships Lady Jing has with other beings, which reminded you most of a relationship you have in your life?
  8. To what else in the story can you personally relate? Even though the story is about fictional, fantastical beings – except for a few humans – what in the characters’ experiences is personally engaging and/or meaningful to you?
  9. What do you feel and think when you recognize elements of Chinese culture and language in the novel? For example, Da Wang? Lady Jing? Mount Kunlun?
  10. If you had an opportunity to speak with author A. Y. Chao, what questions would you ask?
  11. I posit that Chao’s writing organically bridges English and Chinese language and culture. Universal human concepts are clear, regardless of language. I hypothesize that reading and discussing Shanghai Immortal opens opportunities for native speakers of Chinese and English to begin to navigate language and cultural differences and to achieve greater mutual understanding. Further, I hypothesize that mutual language and culture learning may contribute directly to productive, global conversations about topics of global import. Lady Jing, ambassador of peace? What do you think?

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