Cover Image: Joan Is Okay

Joan Is Okay

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Wang for rhe opportunity to read a early copy.
I love books with quirky characters and Joan definitely fits the bill. I enjoyed this book. Was not fast paced but a character driven book. Had to keep reminding myself it wasn't a memoir that's how real the characters felt .
Was this review helpful?
Well written with good character development but very predictable to me. I just couldn’t get into it.  I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
This was a real page-turner and is one of the greatest interior monologue books I’ve ever read. The book takes us through Joan’s life as a stellar doctor who navigates relationships with her aging mother, social climbing brother and sister in law, and her hospital. 

The book reminded me of a modern day Catcher in the Rye in some ways. Joan searches for meaning in an alienating city while feeling judged by others. Joan explains it all in hilariously honest and socially awkward ways through her interior monologue. 

One thing I loved about this book is how it portrayed the early months of COVID 19 pandemic and US-China relations through the lens of Chinese-American Joan and her mother, visiting from China. 

The author brings many threads together in the end that caused me to examine expectations of Asian Americans, women, and healthcare professionals. Masterfully written. Highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?
Joan is the daughter of Chinese-American immigrants who returned to China when their children were grown. She lives in NYC and works as an ICU doctor at a big hospital. The story takes place at the onset of COVID-19, during which Joan is grieving the death of her father, befriending an overbearing but sweet neighbor, and navigating her relationship with her brother and mother. Quirky and wry, the book explores family dynamics and what it means to be a child of immigrants, and what it's like for Asian-Americans living through the pandemic in America. I liked Joan's humorous observations about her job as a doctor as well. I really enjoyed this one!
Was this review helpful?
Simultaneously melancholy and laugh out loud funny, this meditation on family, immigration, culture, and individuality is quite moving. Although this story meanders at times and feels like it’s still trying to figure out what it wants to say, in many ways that is reflective of the main character herself… trying to find her voice, set her boundaries, and ultimately give herself permission to mourn the absence of her parents, both living and dead.
Was this review helpful?
Joan Is Okay is a book about a woman who is many things: a doctor, Chinese American, and perhaps most importantly, a daughter. As she navigates her 30s as an ICU doctor in NYC, throwing literally her entire life into her work, Joan is happy in her solitude, away from her family: her brother, a wealthy finance bro in Connecticut, and her parents, who, after immigrating to the U.S. before Joan was born, have gone home to China. But then, Joan's father dies suddenly, and her mother returns to the U.S. to be with her children. Her arrival sets off a chain of chaos in Joan's life (though arguably, it's chaotic to Joan only because her life is so regimented) that threatens to unmoor her and makes her question her sense of self and duty.

At times, Joan felt so clinical in her own relationships that I was looking anywhere for the tiniest shreds of empathy. There are few to find, but even still, Joan cares for the people who love her in the best ways she can. Sometimes, you can sense a vein of emotion, something bubbling underneath her hard exterior, and the rare times it breaks through are so endearing.

Joan has become so clinical as a way to survive, by blending in and not being different — something she learned as a child of immigrants who learned that standing out made her even more of a target for racism and sexism. Emotional needs and desires would have only stood in her way, so she hid them until it became hard to find them.

Joan Is Okay is one of the first of many novels we'll soon see that includes (but does not center on) our current pandemic. I'm sure we'll all grow weary of it soon, but I thought Wang's decision to describe the pandemic and its timeline as if we're reading this far into the future, without first-hand knowledge, was an interesting choice.

Joan unsurprisingly handles Covid in a very clinical way, describing for readers not only symptoms but the timeline that we all lived through only two years ago. Of course, to Joan, this is all new, and it makes sense that a clinical mind would view an oncoming pandemic in straightforward facts and dates of first cases and first deaths and lockdowns. But at this point, do readers need straightforward facts, each paragraph a different point on the timeline we all experienced, as if two years was enough time to forget? So much of this covid section of the book felt like the author just wanted to compress the timeline for posterity’s sake.

However, Covid is certainly not the main point of this novel, and aside from the arrival of a pandemic, this is a surprisingly heart-wrenching book with a protagonist who really grew on me. it can take a crisis to make us confront ourselves, the aspects of our lives we don't like or the things we've been running from. Joan confronts her grief in her own way, and I'm glad to have been given a glimpse into her process.
Was this review helpful?
The best description I've been able to come up with for Joan's character is if Temperance Brennan & Carrie Pilby had a baby, and James Acaster was the fun aunt. 

'Joan is Okay' is a fun read sprinkled with deadpan hilarity, I was surprised to read so many funny moments in a book that seemed to have such a staid narrative voice. 

This is one of my favorite kinds of books - the ones that leave you with new knowledge and a fresh perspective. For instance, the analogy of generational waves helped view the demands our Boomer parents place on us from a different angle. Also contained within are nuggets of wisdom about the history of discriminatory practices in America, aptly described as, "appalling", and the struggles of navigating a multi-intersectional identity.

This is a voice that everyone needs to hear. We need more stories, more perspectives, always. 
Was this review helpful?
Joan is a mid-30s Chinese American ICU doctor. Joan is hyper-focused on her career & doesn't know about things like Seinfeld or interior design. Joan is quite literal & assesses people by how much space they take up. Joan has social anxiety and anxiety. Joan's older brother is an overachieving hedge-fund manager who to describe as materialistic is to understate his focus on material things! Joan's brother is deeply invested in Joan’s life choices. Joan's parents returned to Shanghai to live, but her father recently died. Joan has some issues.

But you know what? I really enjoyed getting to know Joan and watching her figure out her place in the world. Joan teaches us that it's OK to be how you are. It's OK not to be "Room People." "Because Room People were full of themselves. They believed their own perspectives reigned supreme. And whereas I was taught to not stick out or aggravate your surroundings, to not cause any trouble and to be a good guest, someone like Mark was brought up with different rules—yes, push back, provoke, assert yourself, some trouble is good, since the rest of us will always go easy on you and, if anything, reward you for just being you”

I am going straight out to get Weike Wang's first book Chemistry and shall eagerly await more from this author!
Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this #ARC. #JoanisOkay
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this quirky narrator and found the writing to be compelling. I laughed out loud a bunch of times throughout the novel. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?