Lost in Translation

Expatriate translator Alice Mannegan spends her nights in Beijing’s smoky bars, seeking fleeting encounters with Chinese men to blot out the shame of her racist father back in Texas. But when she signs on to an archaeological expedition searching for the missing bones of Peking Man in China’s remote Northwest deserts, her world cracks open. As the group follows the trail of the Jesuit philosopher/paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin to close in on one of archaeology’s greatest mysteries, Alice finds herself increasingly drawn to a Chinese professor who is shackled by his own painful memories. Love in all its forms–human, sexual, divine, between a nation and its history, a man and his past, a father and his daughter–drives the story to its breathtaking finish.

Emotionally charged and erotic, this widely translated bestseller has been universally praised for its authoritative portrayal of a China rarely captured in contemporary fiction. The novel’s accolades include the Kafka Prize for the year’s best work of fiction by any American woman, the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association Book Award for the year’s best novel from the five northwestern states, and the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Book and Editor’s Choice.


The author of this first novel herself spent considerable time in China, and she conveys with poignant élan the trance of unrequited love for the exotic. – The New Yorker