Paper Names

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Pub Date 21 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 2 Aug 2023
Oldcastle Books, VERVE Books

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Outside a New York apartment building, a violent attack alters the course of three lives forever.

Tony, a Chinese-born engineer turned Manhattan doorman, who immigrated to the United States to give his family a better life.

His daughter, Tammy, who we meet at age nine and follow through to adulthood and who grapples with expectations surrounding a first-generation American and her own personal desires.

And Oliver, a charming, white lawyer with a dark family secret, who is continuously propelled towards Tammy and Tony, whether by fate or his choices.

We follow Tony, Tammy and Oliver across three decades, watching them struggle with the American dream, and whether they must sacrifice and their sense of selves to attain it. This heart-breaking story will make you question - was it really worth it?

Taut, panoramic and powerful; debut novelist Susie Luo's Paper Names is an unforgettable story about the long shadows of our parents, the ripple effects of our decisions and the ways in which our love transcends difference. 

Outside a New York apartment building, a violent attack alters the course of three lives forever.

Tony, a Chinese-born engineer turned Manhattan doorman, who immigrated to the United States to give...

Advance Praise

'Susie Luo's Paper Names is an unforgettable book from a rare talent' - Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country

'With a keen eye for detail, a strong sense of pacing, and a deep understanding of human nature, Susie Luo crafts a moving portrait of two families whose fates intertwine' - Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Train

'Empathetic, propulsive, and timely, Luo's confident plotting shines in this story of three Americans attempting to redefine themselves in a changing country as their pasts and futures collide. A magnificent debut' - J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

'So alive and real, you don't merely read this wondrous novel as much as you get to live it' - Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of With or Without You

'Susie Luo's debut is unblinking, nimble, and written with the kind of clarity one expects from a seasoned author. The word stunning is not hyperbole here' - Brian Castleberry, award-winning author of Nine Shiny Objects

'Susie Luo's Paper Names is an unforgettable book from a rare talent' - Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country

'With a keen eye for detail, a strong sense of pacing...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780857308559
PRICE £9.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 23 members

Featured Reviews

will always cry for well-written chinese immigrant stories!!! cried and clutched my heart and made me call my own chinese immigrant mother to tell her i love her. knocking off a star because i felt that the ending was a bit of a let-down - felt rushed without any sense of ending to it.

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This was an interesting read! I feel like it waned in places, but there were aspects that resonated with me personally. Curious to see what Luo writes next.

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Paper Names explores common experiences of first generation families but with a unique twist. Luo's characters, particularly Tammy and Tony, were very compelling as people and as parts of a greater narrative, and I wish we had more time with them.

I most enjoyed the exploration of Tony and Tammy's relationship as father and daughter. We often see stories of mothers and daughters, or at worst, estranged fathers and daughters. I admired Tony and Tammy for their mutual admiration while still being honest about each others' short comings. My favorite line, and one that I think summarizes their relationship best, is "But for all his attempts to control me, what he also did was create a person who was capable of making hard decisions, of breaking the cage itself."

The jumps in time were often confusing (I wish they had followed a clearer path - perhaps then and now) and I didn't understand the choice to change from third person to first person. I also wish Oliver's role in Tammy's life had been explored more. I think he was rather predatory towards her once she became an adult, but it was masked by love. I do not think Tony would have approved of their relationship because he saw Oliver as her protector since she was a child, and it would have been impossible to protect to the same degree as her partner.

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I was impressed by Paper Names and was surprised it was a debut novel as I felt the story was well paced, the characters were well written and the story itself was engrossing.

I liked both Tony and his daughter Tammy and found their perspectives on being immigrants to America really interesting. As other reviews have noted, the shifting timelines can be slightly confusing but it was also a compelling way to keep me engaged with the story.

I'm not sure that Oliver had as much depth as Tammy and I wasn't entirely convinced by how their relationship turned out. I preferred Tammy and her parents as characters and did feel I'd have liked if story had concentrated on them with more backstory for Kim, the mum.

Overall, it was a good book and I would recommend it.

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Paper Names is an engrossing and at times touching story that had me hooked from very early on. If you're in a reading slump, this would be a great book to try, as the writing is very accessible, and the multiple POVs keep you turning the pages (I may have read it in one evening because I have no self-control!).

I always tend to enjoy a multi-generational story, and Paper Names was no exception. Luo's story tells of the Zhangs' struggle to achieve the modern-day American dream, and the cost of abandoning everything you know in search of something more. It's a story of race and class, of love and sacrifice, and of the ways that we understand - and misunderstand- one another.

Although I felt that the characterisation in Paper Names was sometimes a little inconsistent, I thought that the relationship between Tammy and her parents was definitely the highlight of the book. Luo captures the weight of parental expectations beautifully, and really drills down into the fraught tension that can exist within a family.

If you're looking for something easy to read, but still meaningful, Paper Names would be a great choice. I'm looking forward to seeing how Luo develops as a writer and will certainly pick up her next book. Side note, I can't get over that Luo is an investment banker and wrote this in the evenings after she finished work. Could I have some of that energy, please?

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This book drew me in. In a generational book like this I rarely like all timelines however this book was the exception. I was interested in all the characters. This is a book I’ll definitely reread.

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Not my usual genre at all, but I’m glad I read this book. A story woven on the life threads of three people, brought together by family, life choices and chance, threads that tighten until they break. Thank you to Oldcastle Books and NetGalley for the ARC. The views expressed are all mine, freely given.

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Beautifully written, I encourage everyone to read this book. It is a gem.
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for a review.

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"Paper Names" by Susie Lou shares the life stories of flawed characters. No one is perfect in this story, just like no one is perfect in real life. A person can be both aggressive and caring, both self-centred and unprejudiced, both liar and penitent. The flaws make them relatable, the redeemable characteristics make them likeable.
This book is a portal. It gives insight into what it is like to live in China and also as Chinese immigrants in New York. Yet, it goes beyond that, too. The honesty of the scenes and feelings portrayed is so deep that it transcends countries and nationalities. It is about home: losing it when we leave, and finding (or creating) it again wherever we arrive.
"Paper Names" also speaks of coming to terms with one's past, and about how everyone, in their own way, has to go through that process sooner or later. Only then are we able to find ourselves beyond material desires or toxic relationships.
The writing is easy-to-read and -understand, but sometimes I would have loved to have been able to follow the story in a more linear fashion. This doesn't take away from the story, though, only from the reading experience. Unless non-linear timelines are a no-no for you, I would still recommend that you give "Paper Names" a go!
I received the ebook "Paper Names" by Susie Lou as an ARC, but this is my candid opinion. I am extremely thankful for having had the opportunity to read it and to now review it for you, hoping that more people enjoy this timeless story.

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•Chinese Immigrants in America
•First Generation Daughter
•Dual POV ( Alternating POV)
•Different Timelines
•Coming of Age

The book is deep, poignant and touching. There is a Chinese immigrant father and first generation American daughter. The book has alternating POV and it has been narrated in different timelines. Every story has its own touching elements. As soon as we get into the lives of each character, we learn about their struggle and relationship they share with each other. The book is heartbreaking and poignant. I didn’t like the father and daughter relationship and tragic turn of events that changed the course of their destiny forever. The author has not only shared the struggle of a Chinese immigrant but also the struggle every parents face.

Tony is a mechanical engineer and a Chinese immigrant who immigrated to America. There are unsettling cultural differences between Chinese and American cultures. Along with the language that is the biggest issue. While Tammy is a first generation American and a daughter of Tony. They don’t have a well established father daughter relationship though things changes unexpectedly. Kim is a wife of Tony. Oliver is an American lawyer with dark family secrets


‘We can’t believe in things just to make ourselves feel better.’

‘Immigrants are the heart and soul of this city,’ they quoted her saying.

“Home is always home”

Thank you Netgalley, publisher and Author

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A wonderfully captivating read that shines a light on the talent of an extremely exciting new author.

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