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Reclaiming Lily
  • Author: Patti Lacy
  • Updated April 12, 2011

            Reclaiming Lily (Here's my work in progress, folks.)  


The charmed life of Kai Wang, born under the sign of Golden Dragon, disintegrates when her parents are seized during China’s Cultural Revolution. Eldest sister scratches and claws to feed her younger sisters and protect them from the stones—and nasty slurs—hurled by former friends. By 1980, the government rescinds orders of persecution and releases the disgraced intellectuals to the care of their daughters, who battle to yank their beloved Mother and Father from the precipice of sanity.  


Now that their rice bowls are full, the Wang daughters reenter the school yard, determined to save face. Soon the outhouse walls are papered with Wang scholastic achievements, especially Kai’s. Then Mother’s unexpected pregnancy rips open healing wounds: doctors hell bent on enforcing the new one-child policy will force abortion procedures on expecting mothers. Though Father insists that she comply, Mrs. Wang refuses. Quarrels threaten to shred tenuous family peace until a compromise is reached. The infant will be taken to a “social welfare home” until a Wang daughter is in the position to reclaim Lily. The plan is implemented when the sisters leave six-month-old Lily on the orphanage steps.  


An anguished Kai buries herself in her schoolbooks, tests into the top echelon of young scholars, and earns a slot at the country’s number two science university. Guilt and heartache are assuaged as she finagles a caretaker position at the home on weekends and evenings. Her heart leaps at the chance to lavish attention on all the orphans…especially the one with Father’s smooth brow, Mother’s pale skin. If the wind of fate continues to blow her way, she will complete her medical studies, find a suitable husband, and reclaim Lily. Thanks to Kai, the Wangs will save face…and find happiness. 


In 1991, a shift in government policy causes China to fling open its doors to the West and allow Andrew and Gloria Brown, an American pastor and his wife, to adopt Lily, whom they rename Joy. The news crushes the Wangs, particularly Mother, who refuses to eat and takes to her bed.  


As Kai watches her mother’s health deteriorate, she alters her education plan—not in scope, but location. Kai will pass through the ivy-covered gates of Harvard, “the universe’s greatest university,” but with quite different motives than those listed on her student visa. Kai’s twenty-five-year-old shoulders bear huge burdens: she has vowed to reclaim Lily, gain the medical knowledge that will save her mother, reunite her family, and bring luck and good fortune to the Wangs.         

Reclaiming Lily contrasts Christian and secular notions of sacrifice, compares cultural versus adoptive ties, and explores the tension between God’s ordained plan and the dream of the individual. As in her previous three novels, Patti intertwines music within the text, particularly Chinese folk songs and classical piano compositions.  

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