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Petals From The Sky Paperback – March 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Meng Ning fell into a well as a child and was rescued by Yi Kong, a wandering nun. Now in her thirties, Meng Ning is determined to emulate her rescuer and become a Buddhist nun herself. Warned off men by her mother after Meng Ning’s poet and dreamer of a father left them penniless, and devoted to the serene Yi Kong, she joins a retreat for new nuns and monks. It is quickly cut short by a disastrous fire, and Meng Ning is rescued once again, this time by the charming and intense American Michael Fuller. Michael intrigues Meng Ning, and soon she’s flying to New York to be by his side. But exposure to a whole new culture raises issues that cannot be ignored, and soon Meng Ning returns to Hong Kong to decide if becoming a nun is truly her destiny, or if, despite the warnings, Michael is her fate. Yip’s second novel is a serious, engaging story of faith, devotion, and the commingling of cultures. --Hilary Hatton

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075824181X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758241818
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Mingmei Yip grew up in Hong Kong, studied in Paris and now lives in New York City.

Mingmei is a highly regarded novelist whose work has been translated into nine languages and published in ten countries. Her most recent novel is Secret of a Thousand Beauties (Kensington Books), the story of a young woman forced into a 'marriage' with a dead man. She escapes and finds a home with a former imperial embroiderer who teaches her this art. Her students are to remain celibate, a requirement that forces them to keep their romantic life secret.

Reviews/praise for Secret of a Thousand Beauties

"Fans of Yip's previous novels and Anchee Min's latest memoir, The Cooked Seed will enjoy this emotionally poignant novel."

"The narrative has a certain cheeky, boundless energy that propels the reader to a gratifying conclusion. " - Kirkus Reviews

"The era provides an uncommon and intriguing backdrop of Yip's novel. The cadence of the first person narrative perfectly matches Yip's heroine's thoughts as she strives to find a safe life and love in a changing world."- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

Mingmei had her first essay published when she was fifteen. Her debut novel, Peach Blossom Pavilion, the story of the last in the Chinese tradition of poet-musician-courtesans, was published by Kensington in 2008 and became an instant bestseller.

Since then, Mingmei has written seven novels. Her other novels include Skeleton Women (Femmes fatales, singer/spy, magician and gossip columnist, all scheming to survive in lawless Shanghai); Nine Fold Heaven (journey of a singer/spy trying to re-unite with her long lost lover and baby son--despite the threats of gangs); Song of the Silk Road (an adventure on the famous ancient silk route with the lure of a three-million-dollar award) and Petals from the Sky, all published by Kensington Books.

Petals from the Sky is the story of a young Chinese woman who escapes her dysfunctional family to become a Buddhist nun - only to realize she had run away from her own heart. Petals was inspired by Mingmei's life since she befriended Buddhist nuns in her youth and was once groomed to be one.

Mingmei also writes and illustrates books for children. Her Chinese Children's Favorite Stories is a delightful selection of thirteen Chinese folktales. Inspired by her father's nightly story-telling when she was a child, Yip hopes that by retelling some of these thousand-year-old Chinese stories, she can pass along Chinese culture to many readers.

Children will also enjoy Mingmei Yip's other collection Grandma Panda's China Storybook - Legends, Traditions, and Fun, also published by Tuttle.

In Chinese Children's Favorite Stories, children will discover many delightful characters--from a monkey king and moon goddess, to frogs and ghosts in stories such as:

* The Mouse Bride
* Dream of the Butterfly
* The Ghost Catcher
* The Frog Who Lived in a Well
* How the Fox Tricked the Tiger
* The Monkey King Turns the Heavenly Palace Upside Down
In Grandma Panda's China Storybook, they will enjoy the many traditional Chinese stories retold by Yip:

● Yum Yum, We Love Dim Sum (story of Chinese food)
● Grandma Panda Teaches us Chinese Writing
● Dotting the Dragon's Eyes
● The Story of Mulan, the Brave Woman Warrior
● The Little Kungfu Warriors
● The Painted Faces of Chinese Opera
● Fun with Chinese Kites
● Grandma Panda Sings an Old Farewell Song

Mingmei has appeared on over 60 TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the United Sates, as well as many newspaper interviews. She has published five prior books in Chinese and wrote columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers. Her song lyrics have been published and performed in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U. S.

Mingmei received her Ph. D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. In Hong Kong, she held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University and has published two academic books and over fifty scholarly articles.

Reviews/ Praises for Mingmei's books:


"A unique and enthralling style. . .flawless." - The Nine Fold Heaven, Baltimore Books Examiner

"A guilty pleasure...This is a large box of chocolates..." Skeleton Women, RTBook, 4 starred review.

"Poignant and often heartbreaking story captivating mix of worldly and ethereal, mystery and drama." Skeleton Women,

"Yip's lively novel manages to be at once modern and traditional...surprising and often funny...part epic, part modern fairy tale." Song of the Silk Road, Publisher's Weekly

"A serious, engaging of faith, devotion, and the commingling of culture." Petals from the Sky, Booklist

"From a prodigiously talented Chinese author comes a marvelous novel about a woman who becomes China's most successful courtesan. Yip's work echoes "Memoirs of a Geisha," but with a sharper, more suspenseful pace." Peach Blossom Pavilion, Powell's Books

"Mingmei Yip has written an enchanting debut novel which tells the story of the last surviving Chinese courtesan....transporting us to another place and time where prostitutes were glamorous, elegant and cultured women that were well-versed in the arts..." Peach Blossom Pavilion, Asiance Magazine

"Yip's atmospheric tale is elevated above fantastical escape through its cunning, empowered narrator, a woman who refuses to be "but a captive, whose limbs could be twisted to adopt the most obsequious posture in life as well as in bed," and instead fights to improve her fate...." Peach Blossom Pavilion, Honolulu Advertiser

Praises for Mingmei's Children's Books:

"These 13 stories feature talking animals, a ghost catcher, a trickster fox, the Dragon King, and the mischievous Monkey King and many more. Some tales have morals, others explain customs or traditions. Children will be drawn by the abundant colorful illustrations and the short, straightforward retellings." Chinese Children's Favorite Stories, School Library Journal

"A delightful selection from the rich store of Chinese folklore and legend. Many delightful animal characters..... Retold for an international audience, the beautifully illustrated stories will give children a glimpse into both the tradition and culture of China." Chinese Children's Favorite Stories, Harvard Book Store

Interview with Mingmei Yip

Tell us about the novels you wrote

I've always been fascinated by women who use their beauty, talent, and especially intelligence to achieve impossible deeds. My novels are about such strong, diligent, unflinching women who worked against all odds and succeeded.
I like happy endings because life, as Buddhism says, is already full of suffering, so why add to it with an unhappy ending? How we can navigate our way across the sea of suffering to the other shore of happiness, is what I am interested to write about. I want my readers feel uplifted after they read my books, to know that in life, struggles are unavoidable but it is usually in our power to make them end well. There are happy outcomes in life, too, not just in fiction. Nevertheless, getting to the happy outcome requires that we use our judgment in deciding when to strive and when to just go with the flow.
In doing so, we can learn compassion and wisdom.

Will you talk about the style in which you write - do you have rules you follow, or is the story the form?

I don't think about rules when I write. I never outline but let the characters lead me along. Writing a novel, the first thing I need is an exciting situation. For my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, I decided to write about the last Chinese geisha. My second novel Petals from the Sky I had this idea of a would-be nun who helplessly falls in love. My third novel Song of the Silk Road is the self-discovery journey of an aspiring writer turned adventurer.

When it is time to write my next book, ideas somehow pop into my head and I just plunge into writing. I had the benefit of growing up in Hong Kong where Chinese have been telling each other stories for more than 3,000 years and I heard many growing up. Often these inspire my novels.

What is your writing process?
I love to write in my own small room in our New York apartment. The windows face uptown and the East River - giving a perfect balance of yin and yang. Whenever I need to refresh myself after long hours of writing, I just look up from my computer screen and enjoy the view from my window. I am fortune to have read a lot and traveled a lot and so these experiences provide my inspiration. The great Chinese poet, Du Fu (712-770) said, "After you have read 10,000 books and traveled 10,000 miles, your writing will be aided by the gods." I have more than 10,000 frequent flyer miles, but I am still working on the 10,000 books.

You were a columnist in several newspapers, so can you tell us a little bit about those experiences.
When I was a professor in Hong Kong, I wrote columns and essays both in English and Chinese on art, music, and poetry. Over the years I wrote for a total of seven newspapers. Most were weekly but for two or three years I did daily columns as well. Writing a daily column is an invaluable experiences for a writer - no matter if you are sick or just not in the mood, you still have to churn out the words, day after day. You can't falter because one or two bad columns and you may lose your readers - and your place in the paper.

What is next for you?
My new novel is Secret of a Thousand Beauties, about one woman's defiant pursuit of independence during 1930s China. It is set in scenic Suzhou and cosmopolitan Beijing at a time when one's next door neighbor might have been an embroiderer for the last emperor.

This was an era of great creative ferment, but also great turmoil with modernizers, revolutionaries, and gangsters vying to determine China's future. Women were attaining more freedom, but the old oppressions, such as the ghost marriage described in the novel, persisted.
Spring Swallow, refusing to accept her fate as the bride of a ghost - a dead man -- flees on her wedding day. She later joins a community of supposedly celibate women embroiderers led by Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony to forge a life that is truly her own.
I enjoyed researching the lives of these talented but anonymous women and hope my readers will get as much enjoyment from reading about them.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Live2Cruise VINE VOICE on March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
I had high hopes for this novel, and am sad to say that it just didn't live up to my expectations. The premise of the novel is that Meng Ning, the protagonist, has decided to enter a Buddhist monastery as a nun. This means forsaking worldly pleasures including, to her mother's horror, love and marriage. Meng Ning is steadfast in her decision, however, until she meets a handsome American doctor, Michael, at a retreat. Thrown together by intense circumstances, they fall in love. Meng Ning must choose between the life she had decided upon, and the unexpected love she has found.

A simple enough theme and one that sounds like a good story. Somewhere after Meng Ning and Michael meet, however, it all falls apart. The dialogue becomes almost painfully stilted, as though the characters are ridiculous caricatures. Meng Ning, a fairly conservative and shy character, suddenly engages in behavior so out of character that one wonders if the real Meng Ning was abducted by aliens and replaced by someone else. And instead of a romantic hero, Michael morphs into someone spineless and clingy. In the end I just didn't know who to care about or root for, as each of the characters was just so unbelievable. None of them ever felt real, they were more like actors in a very bad soap opera.

I gave it two stars, instead of one, because the descriptions of the Buddhist monastery and Chinese culture were engaging and interesting. But this was, unfortunately, the only saving grace in this novel. It has potential, but the bad dialogue and flat characters are its undoing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 7, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Petals in the Sky is a story about a woman discovering love for the first time and forced to choose between her decade-long goal of becoming a nun and married life in the US. I downloaded the Kindle version of this book because it seemed like an interesting story and, well, it was free. I did find the plot to be engaging and I was so wrapped up in the story that I finished the book in three days. However, I agree with several other reviewers that the subplot that takes place in New York is bizarre and doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story. I was also disappointed by some glaring mistakes in the book. For example, Meng Ning, the main character, explains that her mother was born in the year of the cat - but the cat is NOT one of the Chinese zodiac animals! I was surprised that the author, being Chinese, would make such a mistake. Also, at one point Meng Ning meets an American woman named Lisa who asks her if Michael is her fiance. The next day, Meng Ning and Lisa are together at a bar and Lisa asks Meng Ning if Michael is her boyfriend - which, of course, makes no sense because she had already found out Meng Ning and Michael's status from the previous day. I was surprised, and disappointed, that neither the author nor the editor caught this error. Overall, I think Petals in the Sky is entertaining, but could have been better.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mich, Chardon, Ohio on March 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved Mingmei Yip's first novel, Peach Blossom Pavilion and had been eagerly waiting for her next. I had particular anticipation because the book cover is so beautiful -- a work of art. I was thrilled that the writing is as beautiful and fascinating as its cover.

It is the story of a young woman, Meng Ning, whose life changes one day, when at thirteen, she was accidentally knocked into a well. Terrified in the wet darkness, she found sudden comfort from a Guan Yin pendant thrown down by a Buddhist nun - her future mentor. Since then Meng Ning was fascinated by Buddhism - she frequented the Golden Lotus Temple, befriended nuns, and studied the culture, philosophy, arts, and the many mysteries inside the "Empty Gate."

As a child, Meng Ning was saddened by her parents' constant quarrelling even their union was supposedly based on love. In comparison to her family life, that of the nuns seemed carefree, peaceful and satisfying. Meng Ning thought her path was decided. On her return from studying in Paris, she joined a Buddhist retreat to get a taste of life within the empty gate. Then a fire broke out and she was rescued by a stranger - a young, handsome, American doctor.

I'm not going to spoil your fun of reading by revealing too much of the story.

Petals from the Sky, like Yip's debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, is a poignant, compelling love story filled with wisdom, compassion, the beauty of life both inside and outside the Empty Gate and most importantly, the choice one has to make following the true calling of one's heart. A wonderful, totally satisfying read, highly recommanded!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Leon on May 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is based on the interesting premise of the choice between becoming a Buddhist nun or choosing a secular life. The plot is quickly complicated by the introduction of a rather extraordinary tender man (Michael) in the life of the heroine, Meng Ning. However, quickly thereafter the book starts to disappoint. The exposition of Meng Ning's choices and feelings is rather shallow, and at times repetitious. Also, Michael turns out to be quite wounded and emotionally needy. The emotional implications for Meng Ning are not really addressed. Additionally, as other reviewers have pointed out, her behavior during a visit to NYC seems out of character, especially for a woman who had lived by herself in Paris for 5 years. Also, her behavior is not addressed in her actual relationship with Michael.
The portrayal of Ming Meng's family and the Buddhist scene in Hong Kong and China are interesting. The character of "the Scarred Nun" is particularly interesting, and stands out in the book, as particularly well crafted.
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