Cover Image: Joan Is Okay

Joan Is Okay

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Member Reviews

I love books with quirky characters that I can root for. Joan, the main character in Joan is Okay, was just the type of quirky character that I needed in my life. She is a character that will stay with me for a very long time.

Joan is an ICU doctor in her thirties, who is intensely devoted to her work at a busy New York City hospital. She is the daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States in order to achieve the American Dream for their two children, but not finding a place to belong here themselves, returned to China when Joan entered college.

At the opening of the book Joan visits for the weekend after hearing of her father’s sudden death. She struggles with grief throughout the book after she returns to her work at the hospital.

Joan’s mother returns to America to reconnect with her two children, Joan and her highly successful brother, Fang.

Joan is sent spiraling outside her comfort zone by a series of events shortly after her mother returns to America. In the midst of all of this her hospital, city and the world is forced to reckon with a health crisis that is more devastating than anyone realizes (hello, COVID-19).

Every time I picked up this book, I did it as if I were checking in on a friend. I wanted to know that Joan was Okay and would be okay in the end as she dealt with her grief over her father’s passing, social anxieties, and family dynamics. I cheered Joan on as she found an inner strength as the book progressed.

Reading about the beginning of the pandemic was both nostalgic (in a very weird way) and eye-opening, especially as I saw it through the eyes of a Chinese-American ICU doctor.

Some of the themes addressed in this book are being an outsider as a Chinese-American, immigration struggles, working in medicine, finding your voice as an outsider in a dominating culture, being a woman in a male-dominated workplace, finding peace as an introvert, and staying independent in a tight-knit family.

I ended the book, satisfied in knowing that, YES, Joan was okay! And she would be continue to be okay no matter what life throws at her. She is a strong character that I wanted more of!
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Not my typical read but this novel got my attention as I have many Chinese friends. 
It didn’t take long for me to enjoy Joan’s humor.

Since this was written doing the nasty pandemic no surprise that Ms. Wang would mention it. Joan is a physician and although this isn’t a Covid story, it did bring back personal memories.

       I remember clearly February 2020 attending a Chinese New Year Luncheon sponsored by the Evergreen 
       Senior group and my dance group was doing a performance. (BTW: If you have never attended such an 
       event ~ trusts me … do so. Such fun! Love the traditional costumes and entertainment..)
       Anyway in February 2020, while watching the enjoying the show, I decided to get a close look and walked 
       closer to the stage, a young attractive Chinese gal greeted me.  She started to ask questions about the 
       dangers of the virus and if I was fearful being one of the few Caucasians among so many Chinese. She 
       then introduced that she was a reporter and wanted my take on what was happening worldwide and what
       precaution’s I was taking. At that time, I was being careful but thought the so called China virus was similar 
       to the flu.  Who knew that two months later we would all be in lock-down? </i>.

This was a different read for me but I believe I will read another Weike Wang novel.
Want to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group ~ Random House ~ for this eGalley. This file has been made available to me before publication in an early form for an honest professional review.  
Publishing Release Date scheduled for January 18, 2022
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If you liked Chemistry, you will like this book as well. The book felt very current with the inclusion of COVID-19. Loved reading about Joan grappling with her sorrow and her place in the world. Highly recommend.
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I find Weike Wang's particular writing style to be enjoyable, and certain sections were genius. However, similar to Wang's Chemistry, the book just fell a bit flat and disjointed for me. I think I would enjoy a book of short stories by Wang way more, however.
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Genre: literary fiction, women's fiction, ownvoices
Pub date: 1/18/22
In one sentence: Successful doctor and self-proclaimed gunner Joan knows she is okay - so why does everyone else think she's not?!
Trigger warning: COVID-19

Weike Wang's Chemistry is one of my favorite books about women in STEM, so I was so excited to see her new book Joan is Okay would release in 2022! I instantly identified with Joan - she lives her life on her own terms, with her priorities. She's worked hard to achieve the success her parents wanted for her, and she has a great career, but family and fun are lower priorities. I enjoyed seeing her work in the hospital and hearing her musings on the male- and White-dominated medical field.

Joan's family becomes a more important part of the story when her mother visits the US from China and takes up residence with Joan's brother Fan. Fan is a great foil to Joan - he's obsessed with aspects of the American dream that she couldn't care less about. Seeing their interactions with their mother was eye-opening, and I appreciated the depiction of filial piety and family dynamics in this Chinese-American family.

Wang's prose won't be for everyone - some reviewers have found it too sparse and not engaging. But I enjoyed the directness - it felt like I was inside Joan's head, seeing the world through her eyes. If you like character studies, literary fiction, and unique protagonists, give this one a try! 

Thank you to Random House for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 
Review posted to NetGalley 11/26/21, to be posted to Goodreads and Instagram on or after pub date 1/18/22.
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I received a digital advance copy of Joan is Okay by Weike Wang through NetGalley. Joan is Okay is scheduled for release on January 18, 2022.

Joan is Okay follows a thirtysomething Chinese-American doctor who works in the intensive care unit of a New York City hospital. Joan is established and content when her father’s death sends her on a short trip to China. While the trip itself doesn’t do much to disrupt her status quo, it triggers and foreshadows events that challenge the world she has built for herself.

This novel falls into two compartments for me. Half of the book (the first quarter and the last quarter) did not work for me. The middle half was better, and did a lot to help me finish the story. My struggles with the book were tied both to plot and character.

The first quarter of the book establishes Joan in the life her parents wished for her and that she worked to build for herself. This portion of the book also includes the death of her father, and her trip to China to mourn with her family. Part of what did not work for me in this section was the pacing. While events clearly occur, this part of the book felt both rushed and as if nothing actually happened. I think this is due to a lack of response from Joan as our main character. She tells us what is happening, but I never felt like I was truly with her, experiencing what she was experiencing and her responses to those events. As we reached the end of the first quarter of the story, Joan still felt very flat to me.

The middle section of the story followed Joan back in New York. She encounters some shifting power dynamics at her job, and a new neighbor in her building. These people and events were nudges to Joan, and made me more invested in the story, as I wanted to see how these nudges might lead to changes and growth in Joan.

Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book did not develop as I might have hoped. All of Joan’s interactions with the people in her life (including her family) are portrayed as negative in some way, which did not inspire any sort of change in Joan. COVID is also pulled into the last part of the novel, but not in a way that added any meaning or depth to the story. In the end, I wasn’t able to detect any sort of growth or change in Joan. 

While events do occur in the novel, this is clearly not a plot-driven narrative. For a character-driven story, it did not land for me, as we did not see a character arc of any sort, or even an exploration of Joan as a person.

Overall, Joan is Okay had a promising premise, offering a view into a life not common in novels. Unfortunately, the novel felt rushed, and lacked depth in terms of character development.
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I put 3 stars but I didn't finish this one.  This just wasn't the right book for me. I kept trying but it may appeal much more to other readers.
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I had trouble getting into this book, everything about it kept me at arm's length, unwelcoming and cold, which explains why it took me a month and a half to finish it. Everything in the description clicked all the boxes of interest but the connection just wasn't there. Still, I recognize that this was a good story and I think for other people this would be a great read. The writing is easy to follow even with the back and forth in time, and the content was engaging, especially knowing what was coming. Overall well done, but not quite enough to make me seek the author out again unfortunately.

My thanks to Random House, the author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A very odd book and I'm not sure if I would give it a thumbs up our not.  Character development was excellent.  But why the book was written I'm not sure.  Couldn't really get my mind around a driving theme.
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A well written book about feeling different in the United States even though you are a citizen.  Born to Asian parents Joan tries to figure out why it's not okay to be different.  Why there has to be a certain conformity to be considered 'normal' in her own life. She is questioned by almost every one around her as to why she isn't being what they think she should, work colleagues and friends alike. There is really only one person who tells her it's okay to be who she is and that she should stand proud...even in an elevator.  There is a secondary plot which explains the beginnings of covid 19 but it is not really about Joan. It is simply relevant because she is Chinese and her mother wants to go home...where she can be 'normal.'  So yes...Joan is Okay and the book is also okay.  An enjoyable read.
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DNF’ed 10% of the way through. I’m very picky with literary fiction, and the way dialogue was formatted without quotation marks really took me out of it. I think I’ll love this book a few years down the line when I’m more jaded and tired of life. 

I only write positive reviews for The Wellesley News, so NetGalley is the only place this review is going. Thanks to the publisher for the chance to read this book!
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I understand the pressure put on first generation Chinese-Americans since I am married to one!  Joan and her brother have achieved "American success" although they differ in what they consider success.  The subtlety of the story line was interesting to me, but I felt that the story was slightly slow and boring.
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Joan is a first generation American devoted to her life as an attending in the ICU at an NYC hospital. Her brother, Fang, is a successful businessman living an opulent life with his family in Greenwich, CT. When Joan’s father dies, her mother comes to visit Greenwich and can’t get back to China due to the COVID pandemic.  Though there was some information on Joan’s emotional state I didn’t love this one because I couldn’t get invested in the characters. I found all of them a bit boring. I also didn’t feel like a lot happened. I thank the publisher and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC.
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Joan is a thirty-six-year-old doctor at an ICU at New York City hospital. She loves her job and feels safe there. Her parents raised her and her older brother Fang in America, but once they were college educated, Mom and Dad returned to China where they finally found financial success for themselves. After Joan’s father dies, her mother returns to America for a time to visit her grandchildren. The hospital requires Joan to take substantial leave after the death even though she’d much rather work, but she spends some time at her brother’s, hanging out with her mother and nephews. Fang and his stay-at-home wife constantly let Joan know she’s living her life wrong. The repeatedly tell her that she should come out to the suburbs and open a practice there and get herself a husband and children so she can be complete. I liked that she never felt the need to have a husband and a kid to feel whole. The expectations of women go the other way, too. Her sister-in-law Tami’s parents are disappointed with her for getting an education and then quitting her career to “just” be a mom. Familial expectations, coworkers’ opinions, even the neighbors weigh in because Joan seems just a little too weird living a life without a TV and an active social calendar. 

This novel is odd and original like the character Joan and offers compelling insight into what it’s like to be a Chinese-American female, especially toward the end of the book when COVID-19 starts to make an appearance in society and at the hospital where Joan works. 

I enjoyed this, especially things like her thoughts on American TV once her neighbor gives her his old one because he simply can’t believe she doesn’t have any of the pop culture references that most of us have.
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Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang is first-person account of Joan’s life as a New York City physician.  Joan has a very unique point of view on almost everything.  She works as a doctor in New York City during the COVID outbreak, but the book isn’t all about the pandemic, and mostly just touches on it for a part of the book.  Joan is a very interesting person, and her outlook on life is different and interesting.  

Joan is a doctor in an intensive care unit at a New York City hospital.  She’s the daughter of Chinese immigrants and has one brother, Fang.  Once Joan and Fang were settled and in college, Joan’s parents returned to China.  However, when Joan’s father suddenly passes away, Joan’s mother returns to the US to live with Joan’s brother Fang, and his family in Connecticut.  Her mother’s return causes Joan to change her very insular life and move outside her comfort zone.  When the COVID 19 pandemic hits New York City, Joan has to deal with her patients, but what is more difficult for Joan, is dealing with her mother, who can’t travel back to China due to flight restrictions.  

The writing for Joan is Okay is different and fascinating.  It’s told from Joan’s point of view, and she has a unique and interesting look at life.  The book follows her problems with her family and her work as an ICU physician, especially during a pandemic.  I enjoyed her neighbor Mark, and her interactions with him.  Her brother Fang is very successful and takes on the father role for Joan, which she is not happy about.  

I recommend Joan is Okay to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction and literary fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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A book without quotation marks is always a miss  for me. I think the idea of storyline was good but it needs it more editing to really be strong.
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2.5 Stars

No, Joan is not okay by any means. However, I am not sure exactly what this book is supposed to be about, as it covers many areas. Mainly, I think it is about a very successful Dr. who possibly has Asperger Syndrome and now has to deal with various difficulties. The main problem being the sudden death of her father.

Think of this book as a spider, with the spider's body being Joan's father's death. The legs will be problems she faces at work, her big brother, her sister-in-law who thinks Joan would be happier married with children (or unmarried with children). Add in her mother, who has come over from China to visit and can't go home, a forced leave from work, a nosy new neighbor, and then to top it all off, Covid 19.

A quote in this book almost sums this novel up for me "...while expressing trivial but inconsistent thoughts." (at 74%). A lot of Joans' problems seemed to be trivial and brought upon herself.

This was a fast read and can be done in about 3-5 hours (only 224 pages), depending on your attention span. Mine was not so great! As far as this book being "witty," no, not really, more depressing than anything else. But I can see in some respect why this book was also described as "insightful".

*ARC supplied by the publisher Random House, the author, and NetGalley.
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Joan Is Okay, is well...Okay.  There's not really a lot going on, it's basically a year in the life of a quirky female Asian American doctor.  Not much detail of the hospital, but lots about her family and her attempts to avoid friends, relationships, and life outside of the hospital.  This book also occurs during COVID-19 and I liked this treatment of it much more than another book I read that occurred during the pandemic.  I read to escape, and Joan is an escape even if I previously knew very little of the experiences she describes.  My favorite part of the book was Joan explaining the translation of Chinese phrases to English and how much can be lost in translation.  This gives the book four stars from me.  There are some very light editing issues, such as repeated words and missed articles, but it's not enough to take one out of the story.  I read this one pretty quickly.

"Hurt can be paid forward and often is, to make your own feel less."
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I’m not sure I was supposed to be stressed reading this, but I kinda was! Everyone in Joan’s life was trying to force her into boxes but in the end she did realize that and stood her ground.

I liked it
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I really enjoyed this book! It isn't every day that you can be transported into a person's mind when it is so different to your own. Joan is a character you feel frustrated by, but also can't help but love. While the story wasn't particularly fast paced, and it didn't have huge ebbs and flows, what it offered ( especially in the last 25%) was unreal. These little lines that felt so inconsequential were actually deeply profound. I also loved that the storyline was partially set during the onset of Coronavirus and getting insight into the experience of Coronavirus while being Chinese, and how challenging that would be while living in a country like America that is so xenophobic.

I really, really enjoyed this and Joan will stay with me for life.
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