Join the Conversation

Join the Conversation

Sign up today to hear about books and authors from an independent bookstore near you.

The Natural Laws of Good Luck

The Natural Laws of Good Luck Cover

The Natural Laws of Good Luck

A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage

By Ellen Graf

Trumpeter, Hardcover, 9781590306918, 256pp.

Publication Date: August 4, 2009


Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken connection between them and they decide to marry.

What follows is a remarkably touching and humorous story of two people from completely different worlds trying to make a marriage work. Settling in at Ellen’s ramshackle farmhouse in upstate New York, they quickly discover the cultural chasm that lies between them. Ellen and her teenage daughter decide to adopt a policy of nonjudgment as Zhong-hua lobbies to sell their refrigerator (“Just three people, no need”), serves them giant sea slugs for dinner, and brusquely nudges Ellen aside without an “excuse me” (“Family no need these kind of words”). 

Zhong-hua is not the type to offer his wife impromptu smiles or hugs, but in bed at night he holds her tightly like she’s “something long lost and precious that might not live until morning.” The Natural Laws of Good Luck is an unusual and exquisitely written love story—one that will resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated with wonder the spaces that exist between us and those we care about.

About the Author
Ellen Graf is a writer and sculptor. She has received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Grant, and she holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.

Praise For The Natural Laws of Good Luck

“A compelling read for anyone with an interest in the nuts and bolts of how to keep a marriage together.”—Times Union 
<p style="line-height: 150%;">“A poignant, witty look at cultural misunderstandings, the intimacies of marriage, and the deep bonds of human connection.”—Gail Tsukiyama

 "An impressive debut, one of the funniest and most moving love stories to come around in a long time."—Library Journal

"This memoir is as unusual as it is hilarious, as brilliant as it is kind. Not only is it among the most moving love stories I have ever read, it is also one of the most emotionally complicated—which is not even to mention how fun it is to read."—Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

"Ellen Graf and her husband, Lu Zhong-hua, take the realm of marriage and spin it on an irresistible new axis. Conventional notions of romance become riddles as these two quirky, endearing individuals fumble from delight to disaster and back again. Graf's exquisite memoir is quite simply the greatest love story I've ever read."—Aimee Liu, author of Cloud Mountain

“A winning tale of two surprisingly compatible lovers who find each other at the opposite ends of the earth.”—

“After a blind date and the briefest of courtships, Ellen Graf, a divorced mother of four, marries her tai chi teacher’s brother-in-law in China, and the usual challenges of married life are complicated by an immense cultural gap.  As her husband navigates the unfamiliar landscape of upstate New York, a portrait emerges of a heroic and memorable man, but not before you laugh a little, and cry a little more.”—Ilene Traiger, Books on the Common, on

“Graf’s memoir is a delightful account of East meets West in a loving relationship, complete with inevitable culture clashes resulting from wildly different ethnicities, customs, and background experiences. This appealing, true tale of adaptation (an ongoing process required in any marriage but taken here to extremes) is infused with an unforced sweetness and offers heartfelt and authentic proof of what we do for love.”—Booklist