When Michael finds a letter to his father from a long-ago friend, he impulsively travels to China in the hopes of learning more about a man he never really knew. In this rapidly modernizing country he begins to understand his father's decisions, including one that reverberates into the present day. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Ling and Emily question their own choices, trying to forge a path that bends toward new loves and fresh beginnings.
Wendy Lee's powerfully honest novel captures the complexity of the immigrant experience, exploring one family's hidden history, unspoken hurts, and search for a place to call home.
Along the whitewashed mud walls are large Chinese characters written in red, sometimes ending with an exclamation point. They look as if they are out of another time period, probably some kind of propaganda. Go back! Michael imagines them saying, in a private message just for him. This is a mistake! You won't find what you're looking for!
What, or rather who, Michael is hoping to find at the end of his trip is a man named Liao Weishu. This is the name that is signed at the end of a letter that Michael discovered among his father's things after the funeral. Then his mother had come into the room, and he had put the letter in his pants pocket, where it stayed unopened for another nine months. Sometimes he would think about it, and be satisfied enough to simply know it was there.
The postmark indicated it had been sent about a month before his father's death, from someplace in China that he had never heard of and didn't think he knew how to pronounce. Unfortunately, it was written in Chinese, except for one sentence toward the end of the letter--Everything has been forgiven.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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Stars 2.5 – Rounded I was excited to read this story, ostensibly about the immigrant experience as told through one family. Wendy Lee has used three narrative points of view: Ling, Michael and Emily, Chinese immigrants to the US with varying connections to both their current lives and their homeland. After a bit of “dissatisfaction’ with his life, Michael discovers a letter sent to his father, and decides to visit China to learn more about his heritage and his father. His sister Emily is an immigration lawyer, with few ties to the homeland, and his mother’s memories and questions about her ability to honor traditions from her native country, her work ethic and even her closed-mouth keeping of secrets and strange choices made years ago has left the three slightly estranged. Yet, the tension because of untold stories and the conflicts that have resulted from the ‘old ways’ clashing with the new is a recurrent theme, and I don’t believe that I ever felt it develop or resolve. While beautiful descriptions help to ground the scenes of China through Michael’s eyes: the frequent point of view flips and repeated switches from past to present in ever-increasing flashbacks seemed to hold the story hostage. There wasn’t a ton of forward motion for long passages, then we would circle the tension again before moving forward. This is not a quick or easy read: while the prose is often poetic, the flatness of the characters and the stalled motion of the plot make it a rather weighty tome: not for everyone. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.