It’s tough to be an American born Chinese girl in San Francisco in 1906, and Mercy Wong knows all about it. But, for all that she was born and raised in chinatown, she’ll let it shape her but not define her. So, after she finishes her last year at the only public school in the city open to kids from chinatown, she seizes the first opportunity she can get to con (beg, borrow, barter, blackmail) her way into a better school. After all, St. Clare’s will help her get a foot in the business world, so one day her weak younger brother won’t have to take over her father’s laundry business. Things go all right, at first. Then they devolve. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and Mercy is nothing if not tough.
Lee’s Outrun the Moon is a riveting tale of prejudice, friendship, and loss, set against the wonderfully dramatic background of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her characters are dynamic and multifaceted, each with their own stories, weaving a well-built picture of many different lives converging by chance. Lee paces her story well for the most part, and my only request is an extra hundred or so pages in the middle to allow more time for characterization. Even though the romance is predictable, it is still fairly sweet, and the rest of the novel more than makes up for it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. – Anya W. ’20