'Song of the Silk Road'
Author: Mingmei Yip
Published: Kensington; Apr. 2011
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Synopsis: Yip's lively new novel manages to be at once modern and traditional. Struggling scribe Lily Lin is writing her Chinese-American family saga, stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man, and employed as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant in midtown Manhattan. When she is contacted by a law firm representing a previously unknown but apparently wealthy Chinese aunt, she ignores her good fortune, thinking it fishy, "like a clichéd plot in a cheap novel." But it's not, and if Lily follows her aunt's obsessive instructions to retrace her own Silk Road sojourn, Lily will receive three million dollars. She accepts the challenge, and thus begins an absorbing journey that only seems to make sense as a way of uniting the Chinese and Western halves of Lily's heritage.
My Take: I had such good luck reading novels set in Asia last year that I keep reading them this year, but they keep faltering for me. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the book, but so far, no luck! I loved the premise of this book. Who among us doesn't hope that we would be contacted my some mysterious wealthy relative to be told that some fortune awaits us if we first just go on some mystical journey? Sounds pretty cool right? I'd go! So does Lin. She thinks about it a little but she is a struggling writer in New York with very few ties so it doesn't take much to convince her that she doesn't have much to lose so she might as well go one this journey through the famed Silk Road of China.
What worked for me in the novel was the descriptions of China and learning about places I've never been, many of which I've never even heard of. There was a lot of old school wisdom surrounding this trip and Lin was a great guide in that respect. Having not grown up in China, she still knew a great deal about it's culture and customs and having her as my guide on this trip around the country, I learned a great deal.
What didn't work for me was the writing style. Even though the book doesn't appear to be a translation from Chinese it is written as such. Many of the sentences are choppy or written with phrases that are foreign in English. It made the book, well, weird to read. I think if they had just said it was a translation it would have been expected but since it wasn't, this should have been edited differently. Also, it was very sexual. I am not a prude and don't mind sex scenes but Lily would just nonchalantly suggest what kinds of positions she thought other people did or should do to have a satisfying sex life. It was a little voyeuristic. At any rate, it made for a read unlike any other!
If you love travelling through China and Chinese history and culture though I think you will probably get a lot more out of this book and the style with which it is written will not affect you as much.
Cover Lust: I like it but I don't love it. The woman on the cover is beautiful but I think it would look more modern if it was on a white background instead of a green one but that could just be me!
The publicist has kindly offered up one new copy to a lucky winner! The deadline for this giveaway is June 3rd; entries open to those in the US.
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