From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With a mercilessly satirical eye, Bi (The Moon Opera
) observes domestic and communal life in late 20th-century China as three of the seven daughters of Wang Lianfang strive for identity and self-respect. In 1971, when serial philanderer Wang is finally caught, he loses his job and the family loses face. Yumi, his eldest daughter, is forsaken by her fiancé and becomes the second wife to an older man in a nearby town. This is a step up, but her new home is no less a hothouse of gossip and suspicion. The third sister, beautiful Yuxiu, follows Yumi with big hopes that are derailed by an unexpected pregnancy. A decade later, youngest sister Yuyang is poised to escape a dreary fate when she's accepted by a school in Beijing, but she, too, has heartbreak in store. Bi describes with a sober bluntness the coarse brutality and familial and community power jockeying that plays out in villages where life is governed by strict rituals, superstition, and folk beliefs. Drawn with dispassionate candor, this is a bleak tale of human miseries and of women struggling to survive in a culture that devalues them. (Aug.)
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Set in China in the 1970s and 1980s, Bi’s novel follows three sisters from a small village. Yumi, Yuxiu, and Yuyang are three of the seven daughters of a lecherous Communist Party secretary who spends more time bedding other men’s wives than he does working. Disgusted by her father’s affairs, eldest daughter Yumi plots her escape through marriage. Her romance with a young aviator ends after two of her sisters are raped, leading Yumi to seek out a marriage with a much older government official. She’s perturbed when her beautiful, seductive younger sister Yuxiu, her reputation ruined after her rape, follows her to her new home and ingratiates herself with the sullen daughter of Yumi’s husband, Guo Jiaxing. The rivalry between the two sisters comes to a head when Yuxiu and Guo’s adult son fall in love. Though the novel loses steam in the final section, which focuses on the youngest sister Yuyang’s exploits at a teacher-training school, this is an involving look at the difficulties of women’s lives in Communist China. --Kristine Huntley