Monday, July 19, 2010

A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei

In A Thread of Sky, Irene plans a trip to China. It’s supposed to be a family reunion of sorts as well as a celebration of Lin Yulan’s (Irene’s mother) 80th birthday. She has to convince her daughters (two nearby and one already in China), her sister and her mother to take the trip. Since Irene’s husband was tragically killed, the family has drifted apart; Irene hopes this trip will change that. Once in China, the family visits various tourist attractions while trying to connect with one another and their homeland.

I really loved this book. However, I had a little trouble getting into this story at first. The prologue just didn’t grab me. Once I got into the main part of the story, though, my interest level went up dramatically. The chapters are written from the different characters’ perspective as they take turns telling the story. I loved how it all unfolded and how the secrets were revealed as the narrative progressed. The story highlighted the interaction between the characters and the insight into their relationships, while revealing intimate details about the individuals themselves.

Each of the women had conflict and troubles in their lives, but for me Lin Yulan’s story was the most heartbreaking. It seemed that at times she was mostly forgotten by the others. Even before the reveal of her closely guarded secret, I truly felt sorry for her.

I found Irene’s work with Alzheimer’s and Lin Yulan’s story about being a revolutionary in China extremely fascinating. Some of Irene’s work was way over my head, but interesting nonetheless. I learned a bit about Chinese history as I read about Lin Yulan’s radical activities and the events surrounding those activities.

The vivid descriptions of China made me want to plan my own visit. It’s such an intriguing country that’s rich with history and spectacular sites.

The book also contained a bit of a social commentary about Asians, stereotypes, customs, and what it’s like to be an American-born Chinese (ABC) visiting China. It was all very informative.

I would have loved to see a map of the areas the women visited included somewhere in the book. I love maps and would have loved to follow along as the women travelled. [Note: I’m reading an advanced copy of the book. Perhaps it was or will be included in the final copy.]

Favourite quotes:
You think you know China, but you don’t know the first thing about being Chinese. It’s about family...—family, house, home. In Chinese, it’s all one word. (page 276)

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Penguin Canada website.

For more information about the author, please visit Deanna Fei’s website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

A Thread of Sky: A Novel by Deanna Fei, Penguin Press (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9781594202490(Advanced Uncorrected Proof), 351p.

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