By Janie Chang
This book was released in August of 2013. I found this at the library. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have a soft spot for Asian fiction. This book is full of all the things I like about Asian fiction!! The politics, the drama the culture. The setting is China of the 1920’s and 1930’s. It is a fictionalized account of the author’s grandmother. Below are the first lines of the story. You are swept into Leiyin’s story from the start.
We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this … So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends (Goodreads).
When the story starts Leiyin is already dead and she must make atonement for her sins to enter the afterlife. Through clever narration we relive her life through her memories. We are taken back to her childhood where we learn what it was like to be a Chinese daughter of a Nationalist. Leiyin falls in love with Hanin who is a Communist friend of her brother. We are shown the political and social changes that are occurring. The political upheaval of the period is clear and easy to understand and not overwhelming. We find that Leiyin’s brother betrays her trust.
This novel is rich with elements of Chinese culture. We learn their thoughts on spiritual beliefs and the afterlife.We are shown the conflict of traditional vs modern practices. Leiyin as a daughter is very powerless and a victim of circumstances. She had hopes of teaching, but her father forces her to decline her university scholarship. This would make a great movie. It is sort of like a Chinese soap opera. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
PS: Take a couple of minutes to check out her website. It’s a great one!!