Paper Wife” by Laila Ibrahim 

Review by Seana Zimmer, adult services library assistant at the Hillsborough branch 

This was a delightful audiobook. I got totally lost in the world of China and San Francisco in the early 1920s. Pretending to be the wife of a merchant, a young woman leaves her family behind and travels from rural China to California. 

During the two-month voyage, men and women travel separately. Mei Ling relies on the guidance of an older woman, and cares for her stepson and an orphan girl Siew. Together, the four of them face the perils of the sea and the uncertainty of detention on Angel Island when they land. A kinship arises among these strangers, and they become their own small family unit.

Everyone in the story is carrying secrets, but the reason behind these lies are rarely mean-spirited. Everyone has foibles, and imperfection should be expected. Learning to understand, accept, and move forward into a future is a struggle faced by all the characters.