What are the chances of a guy going to China with his wife and family to pursue her career, and ending up winning "Beijing's Best Band" award and touring to rave reviews all over China? Here's this guy who makes the sacrifice to follow his wife along with their three kids to Beijing when she is given the opportunity to be The Wall Street Journal's China bureau chief, giving up everything familiar, and he ends up fulfilling a lifetime dream of his own. He and Woodie Wu, along with two other Chinese friends and an American expat saxaphone player, end up forming the Woodie Alan blues band (How cool is that name?) after they meet when Alan takes a guitar to be repaired at Woodie's shop.
Alan Paul has a style of writing that pulls you into his world. You're right there with him, discovering this country that's changing every day with its industrial and cultural growth. You're standing in the aisles, cheering him on with the band, sharing his interactions with the people and living some of his incredible adventures in a country that is somewhat of a mystery to most of us. Paul is very open in his writing style, conveying a depth of feeling and reflection on his experiences. There's a lot more here than just the story of his band, in fact the first hundred pages or so are about their decision to make the move, descriptions of the community where they live in China, their adjustments to living there and about the different tours and vacations they take within the country. He gives such interesting descriptions and points of view, that it's easy to see why he won the Columnist of the Year award for his Wall Street Journal columns on expat life in China. (Another project while he was there). This was an insider's view of what daily life was like for them in Beijing, a very different and personal view rather than some of the stereotype impressions that I would have imagined.
Although this was a very uplifting and positive book, there were anxious, sad and reflective times included as well. Life is like that. He manages to include them all without a dull moment in the entire book. I knew that if the book was anything like its description, I would enjoy it, but I didn't realize just how much. It was the kind of book that I just couldn't put down (except to check out their youtube videos) even when it was late and I had to get up early the next morning. It's a book I'm already planning to buy for some friends because I enjoyed it so much. It's a "feel good" adventure. It seems like the perfect book to be made into a movie and if it ever is, I'll be the first one in line.