Beautiful as Yesterday

A Novel

Beautiful as Yesterday

Mary and Ingrid are sisters who were born and brought up in China but now reside in the United States. Mary is the older of the two; seemingly a devoted wife, mother, and churchgoer. Yet she is tormented by adultery, a grudge toward her parents, and her despair at work. Her estranged sister Ingrid has never settled for anything; she prefers her bohemian friends’ culture to her own, and is haunted by her college boyfriend’s tragic death. When their widowed mother travels to the United States for the first time, they can’t avoid a family get-together. Amid all it stirs up, it becomes clear that the uneasy relationship between the sisters has roots deeper than either had ever acknowledged—and extends to their parents and their homeland.

Stretching from mid-century China to the United States at the turn of the millennium, Beautiful as Yesterday explores issues of identity, of family and friendship, love and loss. Written in beautifully crafted prose, this is a penetrating exploration of what it means to belong, and the impact of history and memories on one’s life.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416598909 | 
  • September 2010
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Beautiful as Yesterday includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 


Mary Chang, a Chinese immigrant living in Northern California, is a devoted wife, mother, churchgoer, and a high-tech professional. She is torn between fulfilling her filial duty as the oldest child and admitting her true feelings towards these obligations. Mary’s lukewarm relationship with her fifth-generation Chinese husband and her estranged sister, a political self-exile who prefers her bohemian friends’ Latin culture to her own, only complicate things further. And when her widowed mother, Wang Fenglan, a state factory retiree, travels from China to the United States for the first time at Mary’s request to explore the possibility of emigrating, she awkwardly reunites the family and unknowingly stirs up buried family tensions and secrets.

Stretching from mid-century China to both of the coasts of the U.S. at the turn of the millennium, Beautiful as Yesterday explores issues of immigration, accu see more

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About the Author

Fan Wu
Photograph by Mattias Cedergren

Fan Wu

Fan Wu grew up on a state-run farm in southern China, where her parents were exiled during the Cultural Revolution. Her debut novel, February Flowers, has been translated into eight languages, and her short fiction, besides being anthologized and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared in Granta, The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Wu holds an M.A. from Stanford University and currently lives in Santa Clara, California. Please visit her website at