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A Thread of Sky: A Novel Hardcover – April 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Irene Shen's husband of 30 years walks out on her, she says, Good riddance, only to learn hours later that he's been killed in a car accident. Stunned by the chain of events and dreading her imminent empty-nester status, Irene concocts a plan to strengthen blood ties through a family tour of China. But Irene's 80-year-old mother, Lin Yulan, in her youth a feminist revolutionary during the Chinese civil war, balks at returning to China, and Irene's three daughters—Nora, a successful bond trader; Kay, a social activist; and Sophie, a talented artist—are distracted by their own troubles. The characters are sympathetic and draw the reader easily into their tangled lives, but despite Fei's obvious talent, this debut has the feel of M.F.A. fiction. The hoary dictum write what you know hovers above every page of this novel. The story unfurls smoothly, yet never really touches the heart. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Sudden widowhood compels Irene Shen to try to reconnect with her three daughters: Nora, who has a successful Wall Street career; Kay, who is in Beijing studying Chinese; and Sophie, who is on her way to college. She signs them up for a two-week package tour of China that will take in all the must sees. Joining them are Irene’s sister Susan, a poet living in Hong Kong, and their 80-year-old mother, Lin Yulan. For Irene’s thoroughly Americanized daughters, the trip turns out to be less a chance to discover their Chinese roots than to come to terms with complications in their own lives. For Lin Yulan, who was a fervent revolutionary and feminist, it is a not necessarily welcome journey into her own past. Although the women don’t really experience much of China as they are hustled from one tourist site and related shopping venue to the next, they all achieve a deeper understanding of themselves and one another. Fei stakes a claim in Amy Tan territory with this satisfying tale. --Mary Ellen Quinn
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202490
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,630,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

DEANNA FEI is the author of A THREAD OF SKY: A Novel (Penguin Press, 2010), a New York Times Editors' Choice and an Indie Next Notable Book. She was born in Flushing, New York, and has lived in Beijing and Shanghai, China. A graduate of Amherst College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has received a Fulbright Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and a Chinese Cultural Scholarship. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches in public schools and blogs at the Huffington Post. Visit her website at http://www.deannafei.com.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Bueno on April 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in about three days and that's saying something since I had children! I really enjoyed it and immediately wished there was a sequel. My favorite novels are those that I learn something from and this is a book that both illuminates and entertains through beautiful writing. Fei manages to combine sociology, history, women's studies, and rich character development to create a unique but extremely accessible story with a lot of depth and intelligence. At times heart wrenching, Fei has an amazing ability to see the world through the eyes of women of a variety of ages, personalities and experiences. I frequently found myself admiring how incredibly authentic all of her characters feel. In her first novel, Fei is already showing what an insightful and compelling writer she is. Can't wait for more!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tatiana Lee on April 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Ever since high school American lit classes, I've searched for texts that speak deeply of diaspora, womanhood, and strength - ideas that I felt shaped my life as a young Asian American. I set out wanting inspiration and a contemporary edge in my stories; I wanted to be rocked by great writing. Deanna Fei's A THREAD OF SKY is all that and more. This book had me missing subway stops and staying up late to read, unable to let go of the characters and unwilling to part with the emotional universe of their lives. Fei's prose is sharply beautiful and alive, packed with lines so powerful they make you catch your breath, then look for someone with whom you can share. Here's a story that can illuminate questions, connections, and truths in any reader's experience. It had me thinking, excitedly: this is life, this is love, this is art.

Get this book!! A THREAD OF SKY will sweep you away.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Diane C on April 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The reason to read this book is the author's wise and big-hearted understanding of her characters. Readers can rely on such a benevolent and unflinching intelligence as their guide though the intersection of social currents, history, time, space, and the private life of one family. The triptych structure of the book (The Astronomers, The Constellations, The Stars) suggests that these human bumblings have a connection to the cosmic, and A Thread of Sky delivers. Fei crystallizes into language and narrative the paradoxical desires for solitude and connection: in this family, their love for one another is often inadequate and at the same time too much to bear. Their story is told with attitude and wit: "Shame was productive, though; it spurred her to do better," the binging and purging youngest sister thinks to herself as she considers her artistic creations. This novel is heart-breaking and brilliantly put together and certainly worth your time as a reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Autumn Sun on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Three generations of women from a Chinese-American family take a tour of China. For the revolutionary grandmother, it's a difficult homecoming. For her two daughters, it's a chance to determine where they want their own future to lie. For the three granddaughters, all at transition points, it's an opportunity to reconnect with the family and explore their priorities. The book could have done a lot more with these themes; it lightly touches on and glides over many difficult themes. They stay in the mind without being truly plumbed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on February 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Deanna Fei has written a story about three generations of women in one Chinese family, all of whom are strong, capable and successful but each of whom also has a hidden secret, burden, or problem. They have not shared this personal aspect of themselves with anyone in the family because they feel it would be a sign of weakness. Instead, each struggles alone creating alienation and separation from the one thing they really need, which is support, understanding, and acceptance from those who love them the most. In the first 12 pages of the book, the reader is introduced to Irene a woman in her mid-fifties who recently and unexpectedly lost her husband Bill to a fatal car crash. Irene was totally surprised by Bill's sudden decision to accept a job assignment in Maine, which he did independently, without first discussing it with her. He had explained he "needed a break." Irene felt she was abandoned. She had announced to each daughter, "Your dad is leaving us," which is how she felt. When he said "Good bye", she had uttered the fateful words, "Good riddance" which now haunt her relentlessly as she rethinks back to the day he drove off. Irene feels she has fallen down a black hole from which she can not return, she entered that dark tunnel from where she can not find the light at the end.

When Irene married, she was at the height of her career, a genetic research scientist working for a firm which was seeking a cure for Alzheimers Disease. Irene initially had outstanding results and felt she was closing in on discovering the cause of this very serious chronic illness but then without warning, her mice died of unknown causes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tayla Chan on July 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up a copy of "A Thread of Sky" over Fourth of July weekend, and literally didn't leave the apartment until I'd completed it. Yes, it's that good. Deanna Fei sketches powerful portraits of three generations of women confronting their own individual demons, and sends them spiraling across the pages in a way that's poignant, at times painful, and always compelling.

Altogether, it's a haunting, thought-provoking read, and one that I imagine would strike a chord with any empathetic reader. The themes involved -- family, elusive loss, connections to history that both beckon and challenge -- are universal and enduring. I loved it: enjoy.
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