Last week I read a novel that’s long been on my tbr list, Fish Heads and Duck Skin by Lindsey Salatka. We’re talking so long that I got it as an advanced copy last summer and shared an excerpt on here back then. Anyway, you all know by now that my tbr list is out of control so let’s just roll with it.
I read Fish Heads and Duck Skin over the past few days and I could not put it down. The novel follows Tina Martin, an overworked wife and mother of two. Tina works nonstop as a sales exec, because part of her loves the work and part of her feels like she needs to work to provide for her family especially with her husband currently out of work. But, like many working mothers I’m sure can relate, she feels like she’s failing in her personal life. All of her business trips and insane hours is good for her professionally, but keeps her away from her two young girls and husband.
After a psychic at a party tells her that her husband and her will not divorce, but will embark on a whole new adventure soon, she takes it as a sign from the universe when her husband is approached about an exciting new job opportunity in Shanghai. Tina, a nonstop corporate machine, quits her job and moves to the other side of the world where she will now be a full-time mom. In a country with a primary language she doesn’t speak and with a completely different culture.
Salatka does a wonderful job of making Tina very real and writing her in such a way that I could feel everything she was feeling. Her anxieties and stress (especially at the beginning of the book when she’s overworked and feels pulled in so many different directions) felt so real and like I could feel her anxiety. It actually made me flip forward in the book because I just needed to be reassured that things were going to end well – I was so anxious for her!
Tina spends the two-ish years of the book navigating her way around a whole new world. The way of life is different and things as simple as getting a salad or standing in a line back home are not so commonplace in China. But, through her hardships there, Tina meets new friends – locals and ex-pats alike who help her find her way. She also learns a lot about herself during this time and comes out better for it.
There were some instances that had me slapping my forehead as an Asian American, like when Tina first arrives in Shanghai and is afraid to go out to eat at any of the Chinese restaurants because she doesn’t want to eat someone’s dog. Salatka purposely puts these sort of cringe-y moments in the book because it is part of Tina’s journey. She even admits at one point in the book that she is a very judgmental person and learns from her missteps. I think it’s realistic that she does not become this “perfect” person once she learns her lesson, but is always learning. That’s how real life is – we are always learning and trying to become better people. Hopefully, at least.
The ending is a bit open and I wish I knew for sure what Tina’s next step in her journey would be. An epilogue would have been so good! But overall, I really loved the book and I loved following Tina’s journey through this part of her life and her adventure in Shanghai.
*I was sent this book complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.*