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4.0 out of 5 stars Bound by Donna Jo Napoli, November 25, 2005
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This review is from: Bound (Hardcover)
"Fins like red clouds at sunset,

Eyes like gold tears of joy, sparkling wet

White fish in cold water, happily met" (pg 21)

Xing Xing writes this poem in the dirt while she dreams of achieving her deceased father's aspirations for her; perfection in painting, poetry, and calligraphy. She writes it to what seems to be her only friend, a beautiful carp that lives in a moat near her home. Wandering away from her daily chores she speaks to her trustworthy friend every chance she gets. She begins to believe that the spirit of her dead mother lies within the fish's heart. Tucked away in an ancient oriental village, thousands of miles where the European Cinderella is living her chronicle, Xing Xing stars in her own Cinderella story.

With both Xing Xing's biological parents departed, Xing Xing is left in the care of her stepmother with the company of her stepsister, Wei Ping. Shortly after Xing Xing's father's death, Stepmother starts to "prepare" Wei Ping for marriage. Stepmother insists on finding Wei Ping the grandest husband possible, one who will take all of them in. Xing Xing serves as the family servant and is emotionally abused by both Wei Ping and Stepmother, mutually considering her unworthy of being a wife, with unbound ugly feet and being too educated for a woman.

In order to make Wei Ping a suitable wife in ancient China, her feet need to be bound. The process of foot binding literally includes breaking the bridge of the foot and tying it back with tight strips of material. Wei Ping is left crippled in agonizing pain for months after stepmother binds her feet, taking all of her helplessness and anger out on Xing Xing.

An accident happens and stepmother sends Xing Xing to go look for a "wandering doctor" a few towns away. Xing Xing sets off, her miseries disappearing slowly along the way, befriending the doctor and finding happiness in herself.

Rather than having a pumpkin turn into a carriage, Xing Xing turns the doctor's medical supplies cart into her own wonderland of calligraphy, decorating the bottles to the best of her ability. The doctor's dog serves as her stallion, leading them wherever they go. In place of a fairy godmother, Xing Xing has the beautiful fish guiding her. Xing Xing's life turns into a fairytale, finding her own prince and magical slipper at the end.

Donna Jo Napoli truly captures a bit of both worlds in her Novel, truly inspiring readers of all ages to never stop dreaming.
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