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A Thread of Sky: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
When Irene Shen's husband of 30 years walks out on her, she says, Good riddance, only to learn hours later that he's been killed in a car accident. Stunned by the chain of events and dreading her imminent empty-nester status, Irene concocts a plan to strengthen blood ties through a family tour of China. But Irene's 80-year-old mother, Lin Yulan, in her youth a feminist revolutionary during the Chinese civil war, balks at returning to China, and Irene's three daughters—Nora, a successful bond trader; Kay, a social activist; and Sophie, a talented artist—are distracted by their own troubles. The characters are sympathetic and draw the reader easily into their tangled lives, but despite Fei's obvious talent, this debut has the feel of M.F.A. fiction. The hoary dictum write what you know hovers above every page of this novel. The story unfurls smoothly, yet never really touches the heart. (Apr.)
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"Timeless and of the moment... A fluent storyteller, Fei entwines this family narrative with harrowing passages about the Rape of Nanjing and the oppression of early Chinese immigrants to America."
--New York Times Book Review
"This is one of those rare novels that delivers on the promise of its opening pages. This summer, no smart woman should leave on vacation without it."
"A Thread of Sky is a lyrical journey through the heart of contemporary China, and the family of women who make the pilgrimage across these pages are as complicated, broad-ranging, and fascinating as the country itself. Deanna Fei is one to watch."
-Ann Patchett, author of Run and Bel Canto
"A Thread of Sky is a remarkable debut by a gifted young novelist. Deanna Fei is an accomplished writer with keen insight into cross-cultural Chinese- American rootlessness and the ties that bind women of several generations. A wonderful book!"
-Anita Shreve, author of A Change in Altitude
"A Thread of Sky is a dazzling, heart-pulling debut. With gorgeous lyricism and rare power, Deanna Fei maps an intricate constellation of loss and love that illuminates the lives of three generations of women. The novel is a startling achievement, braided with history and hope and deep empathy, and it introduces readers to one of the most gifted and captivating storytellers of her generation."
-Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi: Stories
"Deanna Fei writes gracefully and with powerful insight and feeling about love and loss, homelands and promised lands, and the various roles of women in family and society. The reader follows her passionately searching characters to China with a brimming heart, and with admiration for a first novelist so full of promise."
-Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind
"This had me at the first page. Fei's debut novel is both intensely enjoyable and, I think, important-this novel charts the cost of that famous Asian silence between generations, as a family takes in the price of it across several generations. But it is also an intimate portrait of that famous 'new China', as much of a surprise to Chinese-Americans as it is to the rest of us. Truly a book for our times."
-Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
Top customer reviews
On New Years Irene is alone wishing she had her daughters with her. Her sister Susan calls to wish her a Happy New Year and this starts Irene thinking on how their mother's eightieth birthday is coming up and they should recognize it in some way. Irene decides a reunion is just what they need - three generations of women together. Irene and Susan have never been close with their mother for many reasons and Irene seems to have her own set of issues with her girls even though she doted on them when they were growing up. Just maybe this trip to China is what they all need in order to mend relationships and realize how important family truly is.
Irene manages to convince her girls to take this trip although it isn't easy. She makes all the plans and they set off, meeting her sister in Hong Kong. As the trip progresses, the story unfolds. The narrative goes between all the women as they take a deeper look into themselves. Irene, Susan and Ma especially have interesting backgrounds having come from China when it was in turmoil as well as Ma having been a feminist revolutionary during the Chinese Civil War. The girls stories are interesting as well though as we learn how each of them has gotten to where they are now. For young women they all have some pretty big issues and you have to wonder how they got to the point they're at. It was interesting to see how the conflicts between the three generations of women came about as well.
I liked the characters in this novel and their interactions with each other were intriguing. They were so disconnected from each other and Irene was trying so hard to bring them all together as a family again. My favorites were the young women though. Nora who was very successful on Wall Street has so many issues with trust, Kay who has spent the year in China and seems so adrift not really knowing what she wants, and then there's Sophie who's grief is manifesting in an eating disorder. They were complex characters and I felt closest to them and the parts narrated by them were my favorite of the story. One thing this trip does for them all is change their lives. They each come away from it with different views than they had going in and hope for a better future.
I did enjoy this novel, particularly the last half when it centered more on the personal lives of the women. The author's writing is very descriptive and wonderful. I enjoyed the descriptions of the food and I felt, through the author's vivid imagery, that I was on a trip through China myself. I think for anyone who enjoys a novel that takes you away to another place while portraying complex family relationships, this book would be one you would enjoy. It would really make a great book club selection as well as their are so many different discussion topics in it like marriage, fidelity, family issues, and even eating disorders.
This is a well-structured novel - so well structured in fact that I could almost hear the author planning it, making sure to set up just the right amount of conflict inside the family, giving each individual a distinct personality, bringing in a history of the cultural revolution and a family secret and the struggles all of these women had with the men in their lives. Yes, this novel was well done.
However, there was just something missing in it for me and this is my personal taste. The story seemed too well tied up, the characters were real but just not really sympathetic and the family's hidden mystery seemed a little too unbelievable.
I did learn a little bit about China though through the eyes of a tourist and it was interesting seeing the sights through the family's eyes. It just wasn't deep enough or complex enough for \me.
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