5.0 4
by Lan Samantha Chang
A timeless story of familial devotion undermined by deceit and passion and rebuilt by memory.
In 1931, abandoned after their mother's suicide, the young Junan and her sister, Yinan, make a pact never to leave each other. The two girls are inseparable—until Junan enters into an arranged marriage and finds herself falling in love with her soldier husband. When


A timeless story of familial devotion undermined by deceit and passion and rebuilt by memory.
In 1931, abandoned after their mother's suicide, the young Junan and her sister, Yinan, make a pact never to leave each other. The two girls are inseparable—until Junan enters into an arranged marriage and finds herself falling in love with her soldier husband. When the Japanese invade China, Junan and her husband are separated. Unable to follow him to the wartime capital, Junan makes the fateful decision to send her sister after him. Inheritance traces the echo of betrayal through generations and explores the elusive nature of trust. Reading group guide included.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Eder
In her first book, Hunger: A Novella and Stories, Chang focused on the intricate, sometimes hallucinatory tensions in Chinese-American families straddling the old country and the new. But in Inheritance she shifts her perspective, seeing American life almost as a postscript. The novel's action, viewed in retrospect from New York in the 1990's, takes place almost entirely in the China of midcentury, amid its tidal waves of political and social change. Shaped by their country's traditions, Yinan and Junan struggle with the shattering alterations to the world their mother knew: love, enmity and mutual need serve both to bind the two sisters and to force them apart.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A complicated sister bond echoes through generations in this somber follow-up to Chang's well-received debut novella and stories, Hunger. In China in the early 1930s, sisters Junan and Yinan are inseparable, even as Junan matures into beauty and Yinan remains awkward and plain. Junan enters into an arranged marriage and falls in love with Li Ang, her soldier husband. Separated from him when the Japanese invade China, Junan sends the unmarried Yinan to keep her husband's household. What is intended as an arrangement of convenience turns to betrayal when Li Ang and Yinan have an affair. As China is divided by communism, the family is also rent in two. Junan and her daughters Hong (who is also the narrator) and Hwa end up in the States, while Yinan and Li Ang remain in mainland China with their son and are effectively banished from memory. It is memory-rather than dramatic action-at which Chang excels; her prose is lovely, but even images of the turmoil of war and displacement read at somewhat of a remove. Still, the sense of long family histories both spoken and unspoken is powerful, and the restrained conclusion has the force of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. Chang's sophomore effort may not chart new ground, but is still a solid effort. Agent, Jin Auh. 4-city author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A story of sisterly love, romantic love and betrayal, this novel starts in China in 1931 and takes the reader to California and New York. It is about romantic love and political chaos and how sisters, brothers and married couples can often be divided as their loyalties change, because of love and politics. In this tale, two sisters in China in the 1930s, born of a mother who commits suicide, find themselves competing over the older sister's husband. The husband and his brother split over political differences, just as China and Taiwan split. The narrator is a young Chinese American woman who attempts to unravel her own family's history in the 1990s and, in doing so, takes the reader to her grandparents' and parents' China. The author grew up in Wisconsin, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who remembered a China that no longer existed. This novel is her attempt to discover the China of her parents and to reconcile the many divisions she creates in her fictional world. The modern American reader will find the names, the geography and the culture of the Chinese part of the novel somewhat confusing, but it is those details that give the story its texture. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Norton, 302p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
Chang follows up her award-winning short story collection, Hunger, with her first full-length novel, a multigenerational tale ranging from 1925 in China to the early 1990s in the United States. Seven years in the making, it was well worth the wait. Hong narrates the ongoing story of her mother, Junan, and her Aunt Yinan. During the Japanese invasion of China, the sisters' oath to stay together against all odds is broken. Junan, the stronger of the two, marries Li Ang, a soldier who is called to duty. When she can't follow him, she sends Yinan; the two eventually fall in love and have a child-the only male to be born in the family up to then. Chang adeptly portrays the strengths and weaknesses of her well-defined characters; her narrative flows well, except for an abrupt transition from Taiwan to the United States, which makes for a rushed ending. Readers who enjoy the works of strong women writers like Amy Tan, Gail Tsukiyama, and Hong Ying will relish this novel. Highly recommended for most fiction collections, especially those that specialize in Asian American fare. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Lan Samantha Chang's fiction has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Story and The Best American Short Stories 1994 and 1996. Chang is the author of the award-winning books Hunger and Inheritance, and the novel All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. She is the recipient of the Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote fellowships at Stanford University. She also received, from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a Teaching-Writing fellowship and a Michener-Copernicus fellowship. Her many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, and she was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she directs the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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Inheritance 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been awaiting this book since reading Hunger and it was well worth the wait. I recommend it highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful book, but seems to be unknown by most. The story moves quickly and creates a tapestry that spans decades of Chinese History 20th Century History. I loved it . . . and have recommended this book to many who have not heard of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book in the bargain section and thought the title and cover looked promising. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. It moves quickly and no word is wasted. Highly recommend.