This novel by one of China's leading contemporary witers is a shocking but compelling picture of life in China before and after the advent of the communist government in 1949. His One and Only tells the story of Xuan Zhigao, a boy from a poor family in Anhui Province, China. After his mother forces him to marry an older girl while he is still an adolescent, Xuan Zhigao flees his home. Years later, he sets up his own factor in Suzhou, and marries the daughter of a local strongman to help strengthen his status as a "boss" in the city. When the upheavals of war lead him to Shanghai, he falls in love with a local woman and secretly makes her his third wife. Xuan Zhigao is eventually driven to a breakdown as the pressure of supporting three families takes its toll. The novel offers rare insight into the minds of the men and women who lived through those unstable years, and is unflinching in its portrayal of gender issues and social change. It is a fascinating depiction of a China that no longer exists.