A quietly fantastic novel. I found it, first, so surprising: characters, story, moral direction, delicacy of insight into alterity, and all the forms of immigration and exile, emotional (including that of near-orphancy), political, geographical -- all manage to avoid the obvious, or even expected, though the plot twists were always cohesive and never cheap. I found the young anti-heroine strange and strangely challenging, she and Joe beautiful fleshings out of near-absolute good (there are aspects of a more articulate Jo in Great Expectations, or gauche, good Russian heroes) and something approaching evil (like Kevin in Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin'). The small girl's status unsettled me: she challenges a few post-globalised reactions, including the evilly ready-made judgments in us of aspects of immigration which test our views of the need to share our world. I liked her struggle out of the water onto the beach, like the first amphibian, a life force that has to be found a place. Jo I just loved. There's also a good dog (as it were), and I always respect people who can write animals convincingly into novels. This one is a sort of objective correlative, or perhaps just test, for a nucleus of characters, a couple of encounters coming near real horror (`Kevin' again). I generally pounce on `I live abroad you know' novels, but though the author and I clearly share a similar situation, I found no irritating, insider, I-live-there nudging, and loved how the Chinese boxes of the different characters' migrating always left the view slightly skewed, requiring the reader to do some work and decision-making of her own. Again, nothing obvious in a context screaming out for it. My only mild dissent is with the opening sentence, which momentarily seems to set a tone the rest of the novel rightly (I think) refuses to follow. But that's a minor niggle indeed. It was wonderful.