An Empire of Women : With penetrating wit and an eye for telling detail, Karen Shepard captures the reunion of an autocratic French-Chinese photographer, Celine Arnaux, with her emotionally and culturally displaced Asian-American daughter and granddaughter. The story returns the women to a family cabin in Virginia, where Celine photographed her granddaughter Cameron for a famous series of child portraits. Squeezed between grandmother and granddaughter is Cam's unlucky mother, Sumin. Into their sealed world come two outsiders: a journalist who is writing a feature about Celine; and Alice, a poised and appealing six-year-old mainland Chinese girl temporarily entrusted to Cam. To each of the adults, Alice represents a fresh chance, a chance to be less self-centered than they had been in the past. But deciding Alice's future also releases a subsurface ruthlessness that has characterized the family's history since the Cultural Revolution and forces the exposure of a long-guarded secret. An entrancing tale of custody, artistic creation, and the ferocity with which we sometimes sacrifice loved ones to gain our own ends.