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Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 19, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by a brief 1994 interview with an aged Chinese woman named Shu Wen, Beijing-born, London-based journalist Xinran (The Good Women of China) offers a delicately wrought account of Wen's 30-year search for her husband in Tibet, where he disappeared in 1958. After less than 100 days of marriage, Wen's husband, Kejun, a doctor in the People's Liberation Army, is posted to Tibet and two months later is reported killed. Stunned and disbelieving, 26-year-old Wen is determined to find Kejun herself; a doctor also, she gets herself posted to the isolated Tibetan area where Kejun had been. There, as one of the few women in the Chinese army, she endures much hardship and rescues a Tibetan noblewoman named Zhuoma. After being separated from her fellow soldiers in the wake of an ambush by Tibetan rebels, Wen, accompanied by Zhuoma, sets off on a trek through the harsh landscape. Years later, after going native with a tribe of yak herders, Wen learns the circumstances of Kejun's death and understands that her husband was caught in a fatal misunderstanding between two vastly different cultures. Woven through with fascinating details of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, Xinran's story portrays a poignant, beautiful attempt at reconciliation.
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From The New Yorker

In China these days, Tibet is all the rage: Beijing hipsters lounge in bars festooned with yak horns, pop divas sing ballads about Lhasa, and tourists mob the rooftop of the world. This novel, by a Beijing journalist now living in London, plays into the fantasy of the region as a Wild West populated by noble savages, with much to teach the cosmopolitan Chinese. Purporting to be a fictionalized account of a true story, it tells of a Chinese woman whose husband dies while on an Army expedition in Tibet, in 1958. She heads out west to learn the truth about his death, and winds up living with nomads for three decades, conveniently missing out on the Cultural Revolution. For American readers, the urge to mythologize the frontier will be familiar; but here there are no bad guys, only misunderstandings.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First U.S. Edition, 1st Printing edition (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385515480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385515481
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sky Burial is a novel that transcends the centuries, as a young Chinese wife, Shu Wen, a physician, joins the army in search of her husband, Kejun, reportedly killed in Tibet. A doctor as well, Kejun volunteered to aid to the Chinese soldiers, fighting for dominance of Tibet. Unlike the other soldiers killed in action, there is no information as to cause of death, no acclaim for the fallen man as a hero. His bride refuses to believe Kejun has perished, traveling the same route her husband took. Shu Wen has no idea at the start of the journey that she will spend the next thirty years looking for traces of her love.

In 1958, when Shu Wen joins the army to follow Kejun, China is recovering from decades of civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists and Mao is rebuilding the motherland. The Communists have had control of the country since 1949, nurturing patriotic extremism; loved ones are often separated in service of the country. Shu Wen starts out with a contingent of soldiers and eventually they come across a stranded woman, Zhuoma, a Tibetan who will prove a trusted friend and guide for a young woman far from home and family, a bride who does not speak the language.

Zhuoma has her own fascinating familial tale, which she relates to her new friend, as the two set out in the direction Kejun traveled. The women are beset by a number of trials, separated from the soldiers during a skirmish, rescued by a nomadic Tibetan family who take them in, caring for Shu Wen as she recovers her strength. It is through this family that Shu Wen learns the patterns of Tibetan life, the spiritual nature of their days and the rituals that have accommodated their needs for generations.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Ivana Ryder on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Now here is an epic story of love, friendship, courage and sacrifice. Set in Chinese-occupied Tibet and based on a true story, Xinran's extraordinary second book takes the reader right to the hidden heart of one of the world's most mysterious and inaccessible countries. In March 1958, Shu Wen, a young woman and doctor learns that her beloved husband, an idealistic army doctor, has died while serving in Tibet not even a hundred days after their marriage. Unwilling to accept this as fact, she sets out to find out what happened to him by joining his regiment in Tibet. For over twenty years she walked, searching for her husband on a life-changing journey through the Tibetan countryside that leads her to a deep appreciation of Tibet in all its beauty and brutality. Sadly, when she finally discovers the truth about her husband, she must carry her knowledge back to a China that, in her absence, has experienced the Cultural Revolution and changed beyond her ken. Xinran has done an amazing job in depicting the vast Tibetan landscape to us. Surely you too will cry as I did when nearing the end of this amazing must read!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Bowden on January 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
'Sky Burial' is an astounding and remarkable tale and follows hot on the heels of Xinran's first book 'The Good Women of China'. It is a story of love, adventure, loss, friendship, and belonging. It is a true emotional roller-coaster which will, I daresay, not fail to have a profound effect upon most readers.

Xinran wrote 'Sky Burial' after a two-day-long conversation with the subject of the story, Shu Wen. Wen left her home town of Suzhou, in the east of China, for Tibet in the mid-1950s in order to discover what had happened to her husband, Kejun, who had been sent there as a doctor in the People's Liberation Army. Wen travels to this vast, distant land as a brave but somewhat naive twenty-six year old Han Chinese woman and returns some three decades later a profoundly different person, having been transformed by time and circumstances into a Tibetan Buddhist nomad.

It is unsurprising, having read this book, that Xinran felt an intense desire to tell the world Shu Wen's story. Indeed, Shu Wen's story has, according to Xinran, been one of the three greatest lessons of her life. It will no doubt inspire many other readers with what one may interpet as its main message: that one should never lose hope.

The book is also interesting on a number of other levels. Firstly, it is a lesson on cultural exchange; what happens when is thrown into a culture completely alien to their own. The first section of the book explores how acts and beliefs which at first appear barbaric to Shu Wen come to make sense with the passage of time and when explained in their proper cultural context. Secondly, the story is interesting for the insight it provides into the life of Tibetan nomads in particular and Tibetan culture in general.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By N. Reddy on October 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
My book club selected this book, and I was dreading the "love story" purported in the title. But this is actually a pretty neat story about Tibetan life, and since it's supposedly based on a true story, I'm assuming it's pretty accurate. I knew nothing about nomadic Tibetan culture and their environment (except what I've seen in movies), and I enjoyed being introduced to it in novel form. I also enjoyed reading the Tibetan take on the Dalai Lama conflict between China/Tibet. The book is simply written and plot slow at times, and since it is a translation, I suspect some things might have been lost. I didn't have too much of a problem with the writing, but I didn't care for all the coincidences that occur toward the end. I'm assuming this is where the book is very LOOSELY based on reality. Overall, I do recommend it.
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