Author: Deanna Fei
Published: Penguin; Mar. 2011
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Synopsis: 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.
My Take: I picked this book because I thought I would be able to relate to the daughters and the idea of wanting to escape a tragedy. See, in the book Irene's husband Bill had decided it was time to separate after years of marriage. The night he leaves he drives into a tree and dies. When he had left, as she was closing the door she said "good riddance" and shook her head. Of course she didn't mean it. His death was unexpected. Irene has three daughters, ages 15 to 28 and they had to deal with this death in different ways. See, my father passed away unexpectedly last year too so I thought I could relate to this book. I could, to a point, but then it all was a bit too much for me.
Irene gets it in her head that in order to heal and move on, they must look to their past and visit where they've all come from: China. She decides she will pay for her mom, her sister and her three daughters to do a big tour around China. Sounds like a great idea. A big vacation to escape your worries for a time. Of course travelling with your family in a stressful location for any length of time can never be that awesome, right?
The three daughters are Sophie, 15, battling with an eating disorder but probably the sweetest of the three; Kay, 26, who I believe was put in the book merely to teach us about China and show me everything I don't know about the country (and believe me, half this book is a history lesson); and Kay, the oldest, dealing with her own relationship issues. All three daughters treat their mother horribly. It's fine if Sophie wants to, I mean she's 15 you can kind of forgive her since she's a teenager but enough pages in and the other two you want to slap because they are adults and their mother lost her husband whether or not they were separating, so grow up!
However, this book is not without merit. As much as the women's personalities upset me, it also is told with some truth to it. Because when you lose someone close to you, your behavior is all over the place and each character, however extreme, had something you could probably relate to.
If you've been looking to learn more about China and want some emotional women thrown in on the ride, than you will probably enjoy this book much more than I did.
Cover Lust: I absolutely adore this cover. I think it's stunning, like a painting!
For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, March 29th: Amy’s Creative Side
Wednesday, March 30th: Write Meg
Thursday, March 31st: Chick With Books
Monday, April 4th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, April 5th: Chocolate & Croissants
Wednesday, April 6th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, April 7th: English Major’s Junk Food
Monday, April 11th: Hospitable Pursuits
Tuesday, April 12th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 13th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, April 14th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, April 20th: Boarding in My Forties
Thursday, April 21st: Book Journey
Friday, April 22nd: Amused By Books
Tuesday, April 26th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, April 27th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, April 28th: Books in the City
Friday, April 29th: Reading Through Life