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In the Lap of the Gods (LeapLit) Paperback – November 2, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lovett's evocative novel portrays widower Liu Renfu, a day laborer turned scrounger, caught in the Yangtze dam breach, part of the Chinese government's relocation plan. Liu braves the terrifying waters, alone, after losing his family, searching for items to sell. "The river showed no mercy. It swallowed the landscape in slow, heaving gulps. The surrounding fields had all but disappeared, digested over the course of the day in a pulpy mass." In his search, Liu discovers an abandoned infant and saves the child from drowning. The baby, who he names Rose, becomes his charge, despite Liu's meager circumstances. In his scavenging, Liu also uncovers an item that is precious to Fang Shuping, a successful local businessman whose yearning for the past forces him to confront contemporary injustice altering his life in the process. Lovett's complex tale of displacement and hardship, contrasting modern China with its past, highlights the human spirit's capacity for renewal. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The effects of modernization and the battle between man and nature are the heavy themes Lovett tackles in this powerful first novel set in modern-day China. Liu Renfu is a scavenger who picks over abandoned houses before the waters of the Yangtze River, rising because of a new man-made dam, overtake them. Liu comes across an abandoned baby, and he rescues her, intending to sell her to Fang Shuping, the broker to whom he takes his wares. But Liu grows attached to the child, whom he names Rose, and decides to keep her. Knowing she needs a mother, he shyly starts to woo a pretty waitress named Mei Ling, who works at a noodle shop owned by his friend. Meanwhile, Fang finds himself embroiled in a friend’s battle for his village, and comes across an old love he thought was lost to him forever. Fang’s efforts to reunite with his former lover ultimately threaten to rob Liu of the one thing that means the most to him. A moving, compelling read about people fighting against both government and nature, which prove equally insurmountable and capricious. --Kristine Huntley
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Product Details

  • Series: LeapLit
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Leapfrog Press (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935248138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935248132
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,722,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amanda Richards HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 18, 2008
This excerpt is set in China, and tells of the trouble caused by the construction of the Three Gorges dam, which resulted in the inundation of several villages by the Yangtze River.

Our story opens with a peasant couple hastily fleeing their home after one last brief glimpse of their vegetable garden. Taking only the essentials, they leave behind the swaddled bundle of their baby daughter, and one other item of some value.

Along comes Liu, a self-employed scavenger who works the flood plains, and although he's no pharaoh's daughter peeking around the bulrushes, he rescues the baby from the rising water. Hunting quickly in the house, he finds a lacquered box and barely manages to escape the fast rising river with his findings before the Yangtze takes over.

Liu has had the misfortune of losing his wife and unborn child, and at first he plans to sell the child on the black market with a little help from his broker of questionable integrity, a man named Fang Shuping. From the author's summary we learn that he had a change of heart, and raises the girl as his own.

Very well written and skillfully told, this is another story with an unusual setting that has the potential to advance to the next round.

Rated: 4.5 stars

Note: This review is based on the excerpt submitted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and awarded a place in the semi-finals.

Amanda Richards, February 18, 2008
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Format: Paperback
In the Lap of the Gods is the kind of book that John Steinbeck would have written about today's China. Instead of the Great Dust Bowl tragedy and the tragic free market policies of the early Depression, we see in China the man-made suffering caused by the damming of the Yangtze River (begun in 1994), submerging of old towns, and the multiple curse of an authoritarian government and corrupt local bureaucrats and businessmen.
Author Li Miao Lovett truly individualizes and deeply probes the inevitable tragedy of individuals ground in the maw of technological development rationalized as for the greater good. After finishing the novel, the characters' personalities and fates still linger in my memory, as if I had gone through their experiences with them.
More like Dickens than Steinbeck is the deeply touching and growing bond between the main character Liu and Rose, the abandoned baby he impulsively saves from the rising flood waters. This relationship is not a sentimental device because the author shows it in multiple dimensions. To care for a baby isn't easy for a single man who can only support himself with his muscles by loading boats or scavenging in abandoned towns. The abandonment, selling, and leaving to die of the babies whose parents are rushing from the drowning towns and villages provides an emotional understanding to the consequences of large-scale economic decisions
Grief is ever-present in this novel. Grief for the disappearance of old towns and villages, grief for the destruction of farmers' centuries old connection to land repossessed for new cities, grief for the destruction of family ties and friendships, and grief that the promised leap forward for the country has turned into an opportunity for hard-hearted, conniving bureaucrats and capitalists to dominate.
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This is a wonderful novel about the people of the Yangtze valley in China and how there lives are disrupted when government promises are not met. It is an excellent window into the cultural and historical aspects of China in it's approach to "girls" in their society.
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From the three chapters I've read here, I think this writer knows how to unfold a story. I'm drawn in as she eases in details that provide a rich sense of setting, culture, characters, and plot -- as she conveys the threat of a watery grave, the helplessness of an abandoned infant, the desperation of a brokenhearted scavenger, and the risk of a business venture with a partner who is likely to pull a double-cross.

While I thought the writer might have chosen to linger longer on the first allusion to the deaths of Liu's wife and unborn baby, I found the writing and the pace persuasive (again, that convincing unfolding of the story) that I was willing to wait for more reflection and information later, and happily read on.

Already, I wonder what a man numbed by his losses can teach me, as he finds he's unable to loosen himself from the grips of his own kindness and his ability to love. I trust this writer will show me.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is the story of regular people and peasants whose very existence was due to their resilience: surviving the great famine, the violence of the Gang of Four, the loss in income and jobs during the industrialization of China and finally the continuous displacements from the fertile valleys that lay in the path of the great dam.
It is a beautifully told story of their dreams and losses, their interconnectedness and the way bureaucracy and corruption steals even the smallest hopes. There is affirmation in man's resilience and ability to abide.
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We as a nation have frequently been obsessed by China--by its mythic past, sheer numbers, the vastness of its accomplishments. But only rarely do we have the chance to glimpse the life of the Chinese people as they live through enormous changes.

In the Lap of the Gods, the mesmerizing debut novel by Li Miao Lovett, gives us an insight into one of the most transformative events of our time.

The Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River is the largest dam ever built in the history of the world--part of China's strategy to transform itself into a premier industrial power. When the dam is completed, the wild Yangtze will become a giant bathtub and hundreds of thousands of poor people will be displaced. What is happening to these people whose world as they knew it has been destroyed? In the Lap of the Gods tells one of their stories.

A baby girl is abandoned by a desperate couple as they flee their tiny house. Rising water from the dam laps at the hillside below. Liu Renfu, a man who survives as a scavenger of the drowning towns, rescues the child. He calculates the price the girl might bring from another player in this new economy--the man who knows markets, including the adoption market. Yet in spite of the monumental hardship and disruption brought about by this new dam, we somehow know that Liu Renfu will not sell the child. Somehow, he will keep her, care for her, perhaps even love her.

Li Miao Lovett knows her subject. She has visited the dam. She has interviewed the people whose lives are forever changed. And she writes a captivating, fast paced story.
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