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Bury What We Cannot Take: A novel by [Chen, Kirstin]
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4.2 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Chen captures the complex and terrifying political environment of the time through San San’s horrifying experience trying to reach her family, as well as through the depiction of the consequences of family loyalty over party loyalty. This is a fascinating family portrait.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Historic and contemporary themes related to refugees, immigrants, and periods of social, politica,l and cultural unrest add significance and immediacy to Chen’s fast-paced novel.” San Jose Mercury News

“Chen’s writing is fluid, and her storytelling ability is engaging. Readers are easily drawn to the characters and their perils, particularly plucky young San San…This novel is a quick and enjoyable read that should appeal to many audiences.” Library Journal

“Chen’s brisk pacing and eye for minor details make this a compelling narrative. Short chapters with emotional weight and a tense adventure lead to a page-turning read that will appeal to readers who shy away from historical fiction.” School Library Journal

“Chen draws a lovable protagonist in San San, and her deft use of suspense makes the novel a quick and satisfying read.” Booklist

“This is an atmospheric novel of betrayal and ardent allegiance to ideology and political choices…With its striking title about the sacrifice (the ‘burying’) of those who are left behind, the novel succeeds in drawing a very striking portrait of this turbulent period of Chinese history.” The Millions

“A heartbreaking and intriguing novel, Bury What We Cannot Take sheds light on a crucial point in history that you won’t find mentioned in many other books.” —Brit + Co

“Kirstin Chen’s Bury What We Cannot Take is an incredibly moving exploration of family and identity, one that's set against a backdrop that we don't often hear about but which is infinitely fascinating: Maoist China. Heartbreaking and intricate, you’ll be driven forward by Chen's prose from the very start.” —PopSugar, “20 Best Books to Read in March”

“Complex and rich, Chen’s story serves as a fascinating window into a unique period of history and the plight of one displaced family.” Harper’s Bazaar

“[Bury What We Cannot Take] provides a rare glimpse into the little-documented history of such people during Mao’s era.” San Francisco Chronicle

“…Epic and suspenseful, navigating universal themes of family and sacrifice while building a clear and empathetic picture of a precise historical moment in Maoist China.” —SF Gate

“A beautiful story about family, freedom, and the choices we make.” —HelloGiggles

“Chen is a precise writer, with enviable control on the page. Bury What We Cannot Take is completely immersive, and the only times I stepped out of the story were to admire the perfection of her word choice.” —KQED Arts

“Chen brilliantly captures the complex and terrifying post-Trump world we’re living in, as families torn apart becomes more of reality than ever before.” ELLE UK

“[Bury What We Cannot Take] is an absorbing look at how women and children survive a crumbling world in which they have been indoctrinated to leave each other behind.” The Straits Times

“Constructing a survival narrative for a child is no mean feat, and what makes Chen’s extraordinary tale believable is the depth of her historical research, as well as the expert sense of pacing she brings to the storyline…In a tradition of exile narratives that are often told from male points of view, Chen’s novel proves a distinctive and overdue contribution.” Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

“Chen writes with a tenderness for her characters as well as a thorough knowledge of the environment of that time…Her commitment to thorough historical research and patient detail to her characters has resulted in a novel as enjoyable as it is sobering.” Fathom

“I just don’t understand how a book can be this good and this beautiful and this heart-wrenching all at once, and if you only read one of the books on this list: make sure it’s this one.” Book Riot

Bury What We Cannot Take explores what it takes to survive in a world gone mad—and what is lost when we do. Kirstin Chen has written both an engrossing historical drama and a nuanced exploration of how far the bonds of familial love can stretch.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere

“This story will sweep you away. An utterly beautiful, entirely engrossing family saga. Chen writes betrayal and love with wisdom and nuance, attuned always to the complexities—personal, historical, cultural—of the human heart. Bury What We Cannot Take is an instant classic.” —Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn

“In Maoist China, the family at the center of this propulsive, haunting story is fractured by the dazzlingly complex fallout of a single irrevocable act. This beautifully plotted, suspenseful, and deeply compassionate novel shows Kirstin Chen, whose work I’ve long admired, at her absolute finest. Bury What We Cannot Take is a vital book.” —Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

Bury What We Cannot Take fulfills the promise of Kirstin Chen’s debut. San San’s family flee Drum Wave Islet, leaving her behind. An epic story follows that explores gender roles, oppressive ideologies, sacrifice, and what it means to be free. All through the microcosm of one family. This is a book set in the past, on the other side of the world, that is more than relevant in today’s America. Chen delivers a page-turner that holds a historical mirror up to our fuzzy, complicit world.” —Matthew Salesses, author of The Hundred-Year Flood

About the Author

Kirstin Chen is the author of the novel Soy Sauce for Beginners. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently lives in San Francisco.

Product details

  • File Size: 5105 KB
  • Print Length: 275 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1542049709
  • Publisher: Little A (March 20, 2018)
  • Publication Date: March 20, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B071J4SHCJ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,745 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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49 customer reviews

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