Alan Paul plunges into Chinese life and takes us along for the ride, through vegetable markets, used-car lots, Taoist temples, divey bars, and a beachside music festival before thousands of cheering fans. He conveys the thrills and challenges of living abroad, the confusions and regrets, and most of all the opportunity to become the person we always hoped to be.
The American appetite for loneliness impressed me, and there was something about this solitude that freed conversation. One night at a bar, I met a man, and within five minutes he explained that he had just been released from prison. Another drinker told me that his wife had passed away, and he had recently suffered a heart attack, and now he hoped that he would die within the year. I learned that there's no reliable small talk in America; at any moment a conversation can become personal.