Fish Heads and Duck Skin by Lindsey Salatka is a new novel coming out July 20.
A little about the book:
On the advice of a five-dollar psychic, Tina Martin, a zany, overworked mother of two, quits her high-powered job and moves her family to Shanghai. Tina yearns for this new setting to bring her the zen-like inner peace she’s always heard about on infomercials. Instead, she becomes a totally exasperated fish out of water, doing wacky things like stealing the shoes of a shifty delivery man, spraying local women with a bidet hose, and contemplating the murder of her new pet cricket.
It takes the friendship of an elderly tai chi instructor, a hot Mandarin tutor, and several mah-jongg-tile-slinging expats to bring Tina closer to a culture she doesn’t understand, the dream job she never knew existed, and the self she has always sought. Fish Heads and Duck Skin will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered who they are, why they were put here, and how they ever lived before eating pan-fried pork buns.
I was sent an advanced copy of the book, but haven’t gotten to read it yet! However, I do have an excerpt to share with you today.
“What do you think?” Mr. Han asked me with wet eyes once the extra-long first song had ended.
My most honest answer would not have furthered our newfound friendship.
“Well, it’s nice, but, uh, I guess I’m not clear on the meaning,” I said after an awkward pause. “I mean, I feel like I’m watching conflicting symbols. The dance itself is slow and deliberate, almost peaceful, but the sword looks heavy and unwieldy. Also, it seems dangerous to dance with a weapon, like they chose the wrong prop.”
He cleared his throat again, this time with less force. “It’s good you speak your thoughts. Americans are honest, even about things they don’t understand.” He nodded. “For me, the sword is not only a tool for war but also a powerful symbol for the war inside.” He thumped his chest. “Each of us has a quarrel in our heart, between who we are and who we want to be. It is difficult, but we must fight to uncover our own truth. We must harness our qi to succeed, which can be difficult or as you say, ‘unwieldy,’ but the process is also very beautiful and empowering.”
“What is qi?” I asked as the next song began.
He turned to watch the dancers. He didn’t respond until the song ended. “Qi is this,” he finally said. He pressed his hands toward one another but stopped them about a foot apart, as though he were a mime pressing on an invisible pillar in front of him. “Your life force.” Then he dropped his hands and looked back toward the field as the music began.
I didn’t know what that meant, and I didn’t ask for clarification.
“You should learn sword dancing,” he said, this time speaking over the music.
“Me? No, I don’t think–”
“Yes, yes, it is good for you. You can borrow my sword and dance with this team. My comrades.”
“Oh no, I still feel lost here, so I want to learn Mandarin; I think that’s enough.”
“The dance will help you learn, teach you many things,” he said.
“Yes, Mommy! And you can dance with these people in the magic field!” Piper chimed in.
I looked at her with a smile on my lips as my eyes said STOP TALKING. “I’m sure it would be great, but I’m not very strong, and I–”
You’ll start with tai chi only, no sword,” Mr. Han announced as though it were settled.
“But I’m not–”
Very good for your heart struggle. Bring you peace.” He patted my mitten with his dry hand.
“Don’t you want peace, Ting Ting?” He smiled at me like he knew the answer.
Tears sprang to my eyes. “Of course I want peace,” I said softly. “I always have. I’m just not sure I’m capable of it.”
“Yes,” he said, putting his hand on mine. “You are.”
“But how do you know that?”
“I know,” he said. “I know.”
The book will be released on 7/20 and I’ve linked to it below for you to check out!
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