Besotted is the ballad of Sasha and Liz, American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape—Sasha from her father’s disapproval, Liz from the predictability of her hometown. When they move in together, Sasha falls in love, but the sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons. For fans of Prague by Arthur Phillips and The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, Besotted is an expat novel that explores what it means to love someone while running away from yourself.
Melissa Duclos received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, where she was awarded the Guston Fellowship. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Salon, Bustle, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Electric Literature among other venues. She lives with her two children in Portland, Oregon, where she works in communications for a non-profit organization. She is the founder of Magnify: Small Presses, Bigger, a monthly newsletter celebrating small press books, and is at work on her second novel and a collection of humorous journals.
“The true star of this piece is the expat community that Duclos has perfectly drawn. Any expat who has spent an amount of time in Asia will find at least something in there that speaks to their own experience. The worldbuilding is excellent.”
“Besotted is an absorbing, nuanced debut about belonging, desire, and the frustrations that surface in an atmosphere of isolation. Set mostly in tiny apartments, ridiculous happy hour bars, and Starbucks—all Western attempts to recreate home—Duclos’s expatriate Shanghai is wholly unique and beautifully composed. Alive with keenly observed, vibrant detail, Besotted is a love story that pulses with heat and light, glitter and grit.”
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
In Besotted, Melissa Duclos debuts a beautiful, bruising love story that fully inhabits the world’s disquieting spaces in between. Her tender, vital community of Shanghai expats are—sometimes in the space of a single, lyric sentence—both impulsive and calculating, passionate and standoffish, at home and as far from home as they possibly can be. The result is an exuberant, sexy tango of a novel, at turns playful and wrenching, that unpacks the ways desire and reality are both closer together and farther apart than they ever initially seem.
—Tracy Manaster, author of The Done Thing
“Readers of Besotted should be alert as Melissa Duclos slips in and out of the different points of view, jump cutting from one consciousness to the next with boldness and precision; her snarky slings land on target and slice deep. This novel about what country, friendship, work, and above all love mean to a generation of American expats also touches on what life in China is like for its cosmopolitan masses. But Loneliness, capitalized by Duclos, is the main theme. The clueless characters of Besotted try to hide their vulnerabilities under layers of coolness, clever remarks, and disaffection. They are very much like the people we know; they are us at the end of the day, when we remove our make up and can’t any longer disguise how much love and the lack of it can hurt.”
—Jaime Manrique, author of Cervantes Street
“Besotted is an exquisite tale of desire, longing, love, and reinvention. Duclos’s brilliance lies in her painstaking renderings of heartaches large and small, and the particular pain of struggling to find connection on the other side of the world. Besotted is a head rush—a sexier, smarter, more genuine coming-of-age story you will not find.”
—Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave