The story progresses subtly along as a man says goodbye to his family and boards a steamship. Hes off to a strange and distant land, where he meets curious individuals and struggles along in isolation. Small details tell a rich story and we come to appreciate the small joys in the mans life. Its really amazing how much emotion Tan conveys in his images.
This is a really beautiful novel, though I have a hard time putting a recommended age group on it. The publisher officially says ages 3 5 in the press release that accompanied the book, but I cant quite picture these quiet but memorable pictures holding the attention of a 3 year old for long. Certainly, it is wordless; a story told entirely by pictures. But this is really more of an art book. The sepia toned illustrations are much more likely to hold the interest of older readers than younger ones.
In fact, Id say this book would be best received by older teens (especially those with an interest in art) and adults. While I could see a parent flipping through this with a child, or even a child making up stories themselves to go along with the pictures, I really think older readers will appreciate this more.