The Seattle setting is very much a part of Waxwings, as is the time -- the beginning of the end of the dot com boom. Two separate stories eventually intersect. One is the story of the arrival of a Chinese illegal -- the term snakehead (human smugglers) is used in this book. The other is the disintegration of a marriage and the effect on the 4 year old child of the couple. The British writer/professor at the UW is the chief character. At one point the downward spiral for this hapless chap is a little much, but things eventually take a turn for the better.