“Remarkable. . . . Heartwrenching from beginning to end.” –The New York Times Book Review“Shu Wen’s remarkable story is simply told. . . . Her actions speak volumes.” –San Francisco Chronicle“This story of one extraordinary woman written by another extraordinary woman will stay with you long after closing the book.” –The Sunday Times (London)“Lyrical. . . . Illuminates a largely inaccessible country’s hardy people, its communal, religious spirit, and its continuing political struggles with its Communist neighbor.” –Entertainment Weekly“An unexpected joy. . . . This remarkable novel is an extraordinary tale that is fast-paced and packs quite the emotional punch.” –Tucson Citizen“Xinran tells the story with spare elegance, doing particular justice to the awesome emptiness and silence of Tibet…. The text paints Tibet as outside time and politics, an elemental backdrop for musing on love everlasting and noble suffering.”–The Globe and MailPraise for Xinran’s The Good Women of China:“Remarkably evocative, bursting with details that make each account haunting. These stories have all the force of good fiction.”—The Washington Post“The Good Women of China is delicate, beautiful, low-key and devastating.”—Toronto Star
While she is shocked by Tibetan customs - including the death rite of the title, in which a corpse is cut to pieces, dipped in yak butter and fed to vultures - she is far more startled by the political upheaval she discovers upon her return to China in the early 1990's. Even at the end of her journey she finds no real peace, and her story is heartwrenching from beginning to end.
The New York Times
Inspired by a brief 1994 interview with an aged Chinese woman named Shu Wen, Beijing-born, London-based journalist Xinran (The Good Women of China) offers a delicately wrought account of Wen's 30-year search for her husband in Tibet, where he disappeared in 1958. After less than 100 days of marriage, Wen's husband, Kejun, a doctor in the People's Liberation Army, is posted to Tibet and two months later is reported killed. Stunned and disbelieving, 26-year-old Wen is determined to find Kejun herself; a doctor also, she gets herself posted to the isolated Tibetan area where Kejun had been. There, as one of the few women in the Chinese army, she endures much hardship and rescues a Tibetan noblewoman named Zhuoma. After being separated from her fellow soldiers in the wake of an ambush by Tibetan rebels, Wen, accompanied by Zhuoma, sets off on a trek through the harsh landscape. Years later, after going native with a tribe of yak herders, Wen learns the circumstances of Kejun's death and understands that her husband was caught in a fatal misunderstanding between two vastly different cultures. Woven through with fascinating details of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, Xinran's story portrays a poignant, beautiful attempt at reconciliation. Agent, Toby Eady. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In this, her second novel, Xinran displays remarkable depth and poise as she tells the story of Shu Wen, a strong and courageous young woman who falls in love with Kejun while studying medicine at the university. The story is set in the 1950s; China is at war and Kejun is called up for active duty. The story keeps the reader anxious and interested as Shu Wen is taken through a wilderness of love, hope, spirituality and insatiable desire. The setting for this masterpiece is Tibet and the reader is immersed in a rich and intriguing tapestry of Tibetan culture and history. This fast-paced and uplifting love story gives credence to the true meaning of love. The story ends leaving the reader haunted with the desire to find out if Shu Wen will be happy in love again. I eagerly await Xinran's new offering in the Shu Wen saga and highly recommend this book for high school and public libraries.
Based on a true story, this heartfelt second offering by Xinran (after The Good Women of China) introduces readers to Shu Wen, a woman the author met over a decade ago. Married for under 100 days, Wen left her homeland in China to spend over 30 years in Tibet searching for her husband, Kejun, reportedly killed while serving in the army as a doctor. Refusing to accept the news, Wen decides to look for Kejun by signing up for the army as part of her husband's regiment and offering her assistance as a doctor. In Tibet, Wen is shocked to have walked into a bloody conflict (her husband may have died in a skirmish with guerrillas). Before she can find out the truth, she is separated from the army and assisted throughout the remainder of the novel primarily by Zhuoma, a Chinese-speaking Tibetan woman whose life Wen saves. At the novel's end, Xinran pens a letter and tribute to Shu Wen. Genuinely moving and fast-paced, this smooth translation will give readers a taste of Tibetan culture; the story should appeal to a wide audience and will especially resonate with those who have ever personally set off in search of a lost loved one. Highly recommended.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A romantic quest, begun in Mao's China, turns into an epic of endurance-and a spiritual parable. In spite of its subtitle, Xinran's second (after The Good Women of China, 2002) is presented as a memoir, the story of Shu Wen as narrated to the author when the two women met in 1994 in Suzhou. An open letter to Shu Wen ends the book, asking that she resume contact. The short text itself is Wen's tragic but uplifting fable of devotion and spiritual enlightenment. A child of Mao's revolution, Wen was educated in medicine and, as a student, met another young doctor, Kejun, whom she fell in love with and married. But their happiness was cut short when Kejun was sent to Tibet with the People's Liberation Army. After fewer than a hundred days of marriage, he was reported killed, and, unable to accept Kejun's death, Wen decides to go after him. Joining an army unit, she makes the arduous journey to Tibet, where the soldiers suffer from altitude sickness and are picked off by Tibetan guerillas. A young Tibetan noblewoman named Zhuoma joins Wen's party, and soon the two women are split off from the soldiers but rescued by a family of nomads. So begins a new life-self-sufficient, purifying, hard and isolated. As the story takes on a more spacious tone, the simple, pared prose lends a kind of balm: Wen learns the nomads' ways, and time and identity fall away. She finds her soul during this 30-year sojourn and is finally released after discovering Kejun's fate. He rescued a young Buddhist lama from a sky burial (where corpses are eaten by vultures) but shot a sacred bird and offered himself as a sacrifice to make amends. This knowledge comes to Wen in one of a series of unlikely, fateful encounters thatseem to transform the vast Tibetan landscape into a small community packed with symbolic meetings. A picaresque fairy tale with elements of National Geographic, but also lovely, spare and mystical.