I was following this family almost as though it were my own and stayed all the way to the end of their story.
NPR, All Things Considered
Tsukiyama adopts the contemporary template of multiple perspective narration to explore the relationships of a close family in a closed society. Though complex human beings fail to emerge from the facade of stock voices, the tenderness the author shows for her characters creates a sympathetic portrait of intellectuals trying to live honestly in the shadow of oppression.
Best-selling author Gail Tsukiyama, recipient of PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, takes us back to those times not by painting a panorama but in her thoughtful and forthright way by showing the consequences for one family.
Tsukiyama’s close attention to detail and descriptive language paint a vivid picture of the daily life of Kai Ying and her family. Tsukiyama gently envelops the reader into the quiet sadness that permeates the entire household while weaving in the multiple hardships the family faces under communism. Strength of community; support and love of family, both natural and adopted; and the ability to heal and overcome loss are major themes within the moving novel.
A young boy and his family struggle to adjust after the imprisonment of his father, an outspoken intellectual, in this dour slice-of-life novel about Maoist China from Tsukiyama.... For all the delicacy of the prose, the novel substitutes moral cliches against abuse and authoritarianism for emotional energy. The result reads like a faded black-and-white photo, charming but indistinct.
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