It’s been a while since I’ve posted my book of the week. I thought I would read a ton when I chaperoned 225 teenagers to New York two weeks ago, but ended up only reading a few pages. And recently I just haven’t been able to get into a book.
Until I picked up Shannon Young’s new novel, The Art of Escalator Jumping (Kindle, 2013). I raced through it in two days.
The story takes place in my favorite city, Hong Kong. But even more than that, it mainly centers on the world-famous Escalators, which take pedestrians down the populous mountain on Hong Kong Island in the early hours of the morning and up the mountain the rest of the day and night.
Octavia Chan is a 26 year-old Eurasian who recently returns to Hong Kong from ten years in the US after her father suddenly passes away. Her blonde American mother, Joan, is a Tiger Mother and pressures Octavia into abandoning her teaching career for the legal field.
On top of that, Octavia’s best friend Cherry is spiraling into the materialistic, self-consuming world that Octavia tried so hard to escape.
Then Octavia meets Cal, an American architect in Hong Kong on a temporary assignment. Cal catches her attention on the Escalators. The two see each other when they can–usually at a restaurant near the Escalators–but it becomes difficult with Octavia’s increasing work demands and a mother who seems obsessed with natural disaster prevention.
The characters are rich and complex, yet sympathetic (well, almost all of them are sympathetic). And I loved the pace of this book: quick and concise, yet rich in local flavor and full of suspense. At the end I more or less guessed what would happen, but that didn’t matter because I still teared up.
If you know Hong Kong, you’ll love this book. And if you’re new to Hong Kong or don’t know much about it, you’ll get a great feel for the city and what makes it special, including the Escalators and the people who traverse it every day.