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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks, BookSense!
The independent bookstore newsletter, BookSense, is great at highlighting books that you otherwise might miss. So it is with one of its August picks, "My Half of the Sky," which has an off-beat publisher and could easily be lost in the shuffle. For readers who like novels about China, it is a treat. "My Half" brings us a modern China that doesn't include zippy, hooked-up...
Published on September 1, 2006 by Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This book bored and frustrated me. The writing was plain and straightforward, and the main character was so naive, it bordered on stupidity. The plot is the only thing that kept me reading. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Published on November 25, 2009 by R. Hardwick


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks, BookSense!, September 1, 2006
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
The independent bookstore newsletter, BookSense, is great at highlighting books that you otherwise might miss. So it is with one of its August picks, "My Half of the Sky," which has an off-beat publisher and could easily be lost in the shuffle. For readers who like novels about China, it is a treat. "My Half" brings us a modern China that doesn't include zippy, hooked-up urbanites or the ghost-haunted past. And yet, Li Hui's story could be set in just about any era, proving that the more things change . . . you know where I'm going with this.

Li Hui trains to be a teacher but when her father does not approve of the posting she receives, it's back home to her "village," which is how she refers to her hometown of a million people. She wants to be a modern woman and hold up her half of the sky (as in the Mao saying "women hold up half the sky") although culture and her own personality will make that difficult. Filial duty is foremost to her, even though her father is a shameless gambler who is always putting the family in a bind. She is reduced to standing in the park holding a sign that reads "tutor." The matchmaker is scouting marriage possibilities even though Li Hui is a poor prospect because she is educated and has a shifty dad. The girl is earnest, hardworking, and obedient. She tries to make the best of everything. Watching her struggle to cope when surprising possibilities spring up is pretty interesting.

Author Jana McBurney-Lin lived many years in Asia, and her familiarity with regular people's everyday lives is what gives "My Half" its appeal. Some of the writing is a little awkward, there are some editing glitches and the conclusion is a little far-fetched, but I enjoyed "My Half" from start to finish. This is the real China. Go visit.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps your interest throughout and gives you a taste of China, February 11, 2007
By 
Jill L. Ferguson (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
When I first started this book I had a hard time getting into it. The main character seemed to accept her role as "victim" with no control over her own destiny too easily. But then I realized I was imposing my Western way of life onto hers, so I few months later I started the book again with fresh eyes and an open mind. Jana McBurney-Lin's descriptions and pacing makes you feel like you are right there, on the journey with Li Hui, feeling her frustrations, questioning her parent-imposed lifestyle choices, and ultimately rooting for her when she falls in love and tries to make her own decisions. Her sense of honor is unquestionable, whether to her parents or to her husband and his mother. But the reader and Li Hui also feel hopeless and beaten down as we go on her journey. This book seems incomplete without a sequel. I hope McBurney-Lin is at work on the next book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Story of the Human Condition, March 4, 2007
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
This story invites you into the living room of a typical Chinese family and allows you eavesdrop on their lives. The phone is still in the store next door, but there are people using cell phones on the street. You follow Li Hui through her job search, which does not include anything online, and then to her temporary job at a tea shop. She learns the customs associated with drinking tea, "steeped" in tradition and not accepting of change, just like her world.

In her village, the reader learns the humble and traditional ways of the people, the dangers of trusting the officials, and the bond that makes us all very much alike even when we are born and raised so differently, which is: how can we take care of our family? And somewhere along the way, if someone is lucky enough to fall in love, how hard will it be to defend that relationship from a society determined to tear it apart?

Suddenly, just when you think you understand the ways of the small village, the Li Hui is whisked away to Singapore, where all the old rules don't apply and yet they must be respected. This tug of war between tradition and the modern world strips the characters to their souls and give readers greater insight into not just an ancient culture, but the human condition.

Reading McBurney-Lin's "My Half of the Sky" gave me insight into modern China normally not allowed most westerners. The depth of the story is increased by the parables that accompany the characters' actions. Her characters not only tell a fascinating story, but in a way that challenges how you view their culture.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Jane Austen were to write?, February 25, 2007
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
When I came across the promo for this book on a website, it read, "If Jane Austen were to write about modern women in China." I love Jane Austen, so I bought it. I hadn't read many pages before I felt I'd been misled, but not in a bad sense.

As I read "My Half of the Sky," I was taken back again and again to "The Good Earth," the trilogy that won Pearl S. Buck the nobel prize for literature.

Jana McBurney-Lin brings China to life. As I read, I could feel the village streets beneath my feet, smell the sweet and sour smells, feel hot air against my skin. It was so enchanting! When Li Hui is (essentially) sold to a husband in Singapore, McBurney-Lin had to have felt her confusion and fear, otherwise, she could not have written so convincingly.

I can only hope that McBurney-Lin has a sequel planned for this book. I would buy it in an instant, sight unseen. Yes, it was that good.

If you want a quick, light read, this isn't the book for you. However, if you are looking for a story that will come back to you again and again, even in your dreams, "My Half of the Sky," is the perfect novel for you.

And maybe for the next book, the promo will read, "If Pearl S. Buck were writing today...", although I'm certain Ms. Austen would have been very proud to be compared to her, too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book - you'll love it!, August 31, 2006
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
Fascinating and wonderful story of a smart, thoughtful young woman from a traditional Chinese family and her search for love and a meaningful life. This book is a real page-turner and a dellight from start to finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight to Chinese thinking, March 12, 2009
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Paperback)
Jana McBurney Lin captures China's culture in the cultural revolution, (sometime in the 1970's I'd say) a time when Mao asks people to get rid of the old customs. In My Half of the Sky, through the inner dialogue of her heroine, Li Hui, we learn what is expected of her by her father, her boss, and others of the older and more traditional generation, while, she, a trained teacher, an accomplishment in the cultural revolution, only wants to find a job to help her family. Her father, meanwhile, is hoping to marry her to some rich family to pay for his gambling debts. Her father doesn't appreciate her education, if fact, he feels it is a detriment to finding a suitable husband.
Following the old culture of worshiping ancestors, Li Hui is guided by her deceased grandmother's advice to make some of her own decisions, or at least to understand what is happening to her. Wanting "to hold up half of the sky"t gets her into lots of trouble with those who prefer the timeless ways--arranged marriages, filial piety, modesty, obligations, gifts, relationships, while she wants to marry for love and work as a teacher.
Since I lived in China and my college students shared many of their thought with me, I was very impressed with Jana McBurney-Lin's skill in conveying those thoughts through her inner dialogue and of the actions of other characters. I thought the book was great, and I want to read a sequel!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Half of the Sky, December 12, 2006
By 
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
I loved the story My Half of the Sky, by Jana McBurney-Lin, really came to care for the characters, and felt as if I were walking next to Li Hui as I was reading.

Out of the depths of a richly woven Chinese culture comes a contemporary story about an educated young women, Li Hui, who must try to hold up her half of the sky, as Moa Ze Dong suggested is a women's responsibility. Li Hui is smart, earnest and wants to please her parents. This ultimately means bringing them honor and financial security through a successful, arranged marriage.

The obstacles that Li Hui faces equates to trying to hold up her half of the sky with at least one hand tied behind her back due both to family burdens and a westernizing country. What does holding up my half of the sky mean now? The story is captivating largely due to the intimate understanding Jana McBurney-Lin has of Chineses culture and social interactions.

This is a book that is hard to put down and hard to get out of one's mind and therefore I highly recommend it. I hope to see a follow-on story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Half of the Sky - a Treasue to read., November 11, 2006
By 
Jackie Houchin (Sun Valley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
Jana McBurney-Lin's debut novel, My Half of the Sky, is a masterpiece and well worth the ten years it took her to write it. From the first word to the last of its 533 pages, the reader will be captivated by the way the author uses words and nuance and simplicity to create rich characters and settings so vivid it feels like you are watching a classic film.

It is the story of Li Hui, a young village girl who manages to go to College with the dream of escaping the ordinary, only to find herself bound again to poverty, hopelessness, and the increasing debts of her gambling-addicted father. You'll weep with her at the unfairness of life, and you'll root for her when happiness, in the form of a young man in a blue shirt, fleetingly touches her life.

China's late leader, Mao Ze Dong once said, "Women hold up half the sky," but to Li Hui, it just wasn't so. Never could she see herself holding up even a sliver of sky. But as we follow her journey in these pages, we begin to see strengths she is blind to. And when her friend, Madam Paper Cutter, hands her an intricate cutting of a phoenix, we know in our hearts that Li Hui will one day fly.

My Half of the Sky is a hard book to put down, but you will force yourself to do so, just to make the reading experience last longer. It's a story you'll want to savor one piece at a time, like eating fine chocolate, and it's one that you'll want to return to over and over.

Jana McBurney-Lin's book was accepted into the pool of nominations for the Pulitzer Prize - a well deserved designation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!, August 1, 2006
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
It's terrific. I've had no sleep because I couldn't put it down! The back cover describes it as "If Jane Austin were to write about women in modern China". I highly recommend it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it!, August 1, 2006
By 
This review is from: My Half of the Sky (Hardcover)
A beautifully written unique story about love, family obligations, and the Chinese culture. I couldn't put the book down and have recommended it to many friends! I won't say anything more so as not to give the story away...just that I've never been inspired to write an online review until now. You gotta read it!
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My Half of the Sky
My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin
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