By Nell Freudenberger
REVIEWED BY FRANCINE PROSE
Everyone has a potentially explosive secret in Freudenberger’s ambitious, entertaining new novel. The Chinese artist on a grant to teach in L.A. is concealing something. His hostess is having an affair with her husband’s brother; her troubled son has acquired a handgun and a sexy girlfriend. The narrative skips from 1980s China to America today, from Beijing to a school for overprivileged California girls. It hardly matters that we can foresee the book’s revelations. What counts is how well the author handles serious themes: the impulse to make art, the conflict between desire and responsibility and, most important, the chasm between the counterfeit and the authentic.