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"In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old."
Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming's father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China's political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.
With maturity and sophistication, humor and beauty, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality.
- ISBN-13: 9780393354720
- ISBN-10: 0393354725
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: October 2017
- Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Page Count: 496
Book clubs: Deathbed revelations
A finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, Michael Chabon’s Moonglow is another fascinating blend of fact and fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. This masterfully constructed novel takes the form of a memoir narrated by a writer named Mike, who is in many ways similar to Chabon himself. Filled with the stories Mike’s grandfather shared with him before he passed away, the book offers a remarkable portrait of 1950s America. Mike’s grandfather, an engineer who served in World War II, has many adventures as an enlisted man. After the war, he loses his job, and his volatile temper lands him in prison. Mike’s grandmother, a sensitive woman scarred by the Holocaust, suffers bouts of depression and winds up in an institution. The novel draws upon both of their pasts, and the result is an expansive yet intimate chronicle of a bygone era. Based on actual conversations the author had with his dying grandfather, Chabon’s compassionate exploration of his family’s history is a must-read for fans of literary fiction.
SINS OF THE PAST
Madeleine Thien’s skillfully constructed novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing follows a damaged family in the years after Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China. A math instructor living in Vancouver, Marie is trying to find answers about her father, Kai, a talented pianist who committed suicide. During the 1960s, a time of political unrest in China, Kai trained at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music with Sparrow, a gifted composer, and Zhuli, a young violinist. Sparrow is the father of Marie’s old friend, Ai-Ming, who is also trying to untangle her family’s history. Marie gradually teases out the threads of the past through notebooks her father left behind. Across the years, the lives of the three musicians have repercussions for both women. The narrative moves back and forth in time with wonderful fluidity as Thien explores the complexities of family and the far-reaching effects of history. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this provocative novel is a great fit for reading groups.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Brit Bennett’s acclaimed debut novel, The Mothers, takes place in an African-American enclave in California. Nadia Turner, a headstrong teen, is approaching the end of high school while coping with her mother’s suicide. She finds romance with 21-year-old Luke Sheppard, a once promising athlete who now works at a diner. When Nadia gets pregnant, she does her best to conceal her condition. Not even Aubrey, her closest friend, knows the truth about her pregnancy. Nadia succeeds in keeping her secret, and as she says goodbye to her teenage years, she finds that her choices regarding Luke and the baby have lingering consequences. Writing with luminous clarity, Bennett spins a poignant story of young people in search of themselves. An exciting introduction to an important new novelist, this is a timely book that will resonate with readers of all ages.
This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.