Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz

ISBN: 0553418084
Published: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: Crown
Received: Blogging for Books
Read from July 20th to 25th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
An unforgettable portrait of individuals who hope, struggle, and grow along a single street cutting through the heart of China’s most exhilarating metropolis, from one of the most acclaimed broadcast journalists reporting on China today.
Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future, and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s – and country’s – dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.
A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities.


This book was fascinating. While I expected the book to be interesting going into it, I didn't expect to fall in love with it the way I did. Schmitz talks to many different people who all live on one street in Shanghai, the Street of Eternal Happiness (it's real name translated into English). Often, having the stories of so many people told can make it easier to not fully connect with anyone, but that wasn't the case here.

After finishing this book, I felt like I'd been consumed by everyone's stories. The people whose lives you learn about fall into a variety of demographics. There are young and old who were born during varying stages in China's history, and there are also different social classes and different experiences.

Even when you connect with books that tell a multitude of stories, some typically stand out more than the others to you, but I didn't experience that with this book either. Everyone's story was just as fascinating as everyone else's, and I wanted to hear about everyone so much that I was eager every time it switched to someone else again.

If you're looking for a book that will reach your soul, I think this is one of those. I would also highly recommend it for anyone who wants to read real stories about life in China. The author is American, so this is a book told by a foreigner instead of a personal story about life in China by a Chinese person. Still, it's an excellent book for what it is, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

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