Tuesday, June 25, 2013
G108 Book Review of The Thread of a Thousand Miles by Alan Yang
Author: Alan Yang
Type of book: World War 2, christianity, missionary, secrets, China, interracial Asian male/white female, romance, love, marriage, destiny, fate
Year it was published: 2013
The encounter of an Asian man and an American woman in Guangzhou sparked a love affair that would put the age-old Chinese saying, "A marriage of a thousand miles is strung by a single thread," to test. Jin and Lucia came from two different worlds. They had no clue about each other's identity or their ancestors' secret past. Their romance was couched in a family saga dating back to World War II. Their passion for each other grew and blossomed at a time when love was forbidden. How would Jin and Lucia's family mysteries be unraveled? Would they be able to tackle the odds against them? Would their love ever be consummated? Filled with twists and turns, this story puts Jin and Lucia through a gauntlet of trouble and turmoil, leading up to a final climactic realization.
The characters are more of tell variety rather than show; that is we are often told of their thoughts and motivations, but we are not really taken into the emotions they are experiencing. For example, I cannot recall reading the symptoms of love when reading about Jin or about Lucia; that is I did not see the beating of the hearts, or the sweaty palms, or perhaps quickening of the heart at the thought of the loved one. Also, here's a quick list of the characters in the book. When I was reading it, I found it confusing, which is why I recommended in reading it in a few settings as possible.
Ted Williams- Jin's possible grandfather. He is Lucia's grandfather
Gertrude Williams- Ted's wife
Qing-chen Nan- Jin's adopted grandfather
Qing-xian- Jin's natural grandmother, Qing-chen's sister.
San-xiang- Qing-Chen's wife, referred to as Grandmother
Betsy Williams Bennett- Ted William's daughter, Lucia's mother
Gabe Williams- Ted William's son, Lucia's uncle
Dick Bennett- Lucia's father and Betsy's husband
Wei-de Nan- Jin's natural father, referred to as Baba
Wei-ping- Jin's adopted uncle, Japanese originally. Works as a policeman
Shu-min Cai Nan- Jin's mother who killed herself under mysterious circumstances
Liu- The antagonist of the story
General Niu and General Long- Liu's bosses
General Xu- One of Liu's victims
Aunt Song- the mailman at the university
Peach Blossom- General Liu's mistress
Lucia Bennett- daughter of Betsy and Dick, granddaughter of Ted. Goes to China to teach and falls in love with Jin.
Chuck Bennett - Lucia's brother who works for a prestigious firm
Jin-zhi Nan- a student at South China Tech who falls in love with Lucia, son of Wei-de and grandson of Qing-Chen.
Lili- Jin's first love and girlfriend
Da-kai Xu- General Xu's son, twin to Da-ming
Da-ming Xu- General Xu's son, twin to Da-kai
Hopefully if you choose to read the book, the list will be of help.
If you are meant to be with someone, then you will be with someone
Its written in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view. The primary focus is on Jin, however. I would recommend reading it either at once or in a few settings as possible because due to many characters, there will be confusion over who is who. I also would have liked to know how Lucia's brother's plot-line was resolved, and what had happened to him afterwards.
Alan Yang was born in the Middle Kingdom, the way the Chinese call their country, but has lived most of his adult life in the United States. He taught at Jinan University in Guangzhou and is currently a universtiy professor in New Jersey. Most of his previous publications are in the realm of social sciences. The Thread of a Thousand Miles is his first novel.
This book isn't without faults, so why the five stars then? There was a strange hypnotic and seductive power in it that drew me in and didn't let go of me. I enjoyed it far more and mistakes didn't detract from the enjoyment strangely enough. The strength of the book happens to be the language and the plot of the story, as well as a relationship that sort of reminded me a little of Doctor Zhivago. For me personally, the weaknesses happened to be too many characters, the constant switching of points of view, and that I didn't really feel that I knew Lucia or Jin. The potential chemistry and attraction were there though, but at the same time I was mystified in what they liked about one another when it came to personality. As I have mentioned, despite these mistakes, I was somehow caught up in the story and in the language of the story, finding beauty within. Reading it reminded me of Dream of the Red Chamber or The Tale of Genji, getting caught up in the language and atmosphere and not paying attention to mistakes.
Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)