Tuesday, February 25, 2014

G258 Book Review of Three Souls by Janie Chang

Name of Book: Three Souls

Author: Janie Chang

ISBN: 978-0-06-229319-0

Publisher: William Morrow

Type of book: 1920s-1930s, China, Opium, wars, movies, afterlife, three souls, supernatural, dreams, marriage, first love, Communism, education, reading, ghost, making amends, friendship, sisterhood, status of women

Year it was published: 2013


We have three souls, or so I'd been told. But only in death could I confirm this ... So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

Suffused with history and literature, Three Souls is an epic tale of revenge and betrayal, forbidden love, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom.


Before I get into describing characters, may I request for the author to create a similar book representing Yen Hanchin? Pretty please with sugar on top? Anyways, on with the characters. Song Leiyin is the main heroine and character of the novel. In beginning she's dead and is told she has to make amends. Most of the book is about her life from the time she is seventeen to the time she dies (The reader learns she dies at the very beginning of the book,) and the reader is pulled along watching her shift and regret her actions in death. Best way to describe her is that she's beautiful, headstrong, determined and intelligent as well as obedient and she also easily holds on to grudges. In life she's besotted with a man and isn't appreciative of what she has, especially when comparing her fate to that of her sisters. The sisters do play a role in Leiyin's life, but not a huge one. One of the sisters is a beauty who gets married to a man who's addicted to opium, while another seems to give up her dreams. There is also a brother, Tongyin who tends to be gullible as well as in denial about a part of himself. Of course let's not forget one of the more interesting and fascinating characters for me, Yen Hanchin who really is manipulative, a mastermind and takes advantage of people. Just to learn of what he had done its a worthwhile read. Its amazing how many characters the book possessed, yet I can pick each one out and tell a short summary about them. There is also Leiyin's husband who seems to be from the country but he's incredibly sweet, gentle and forgiving towards Leiyin.


Don't judge a story by the genre; life is full of surprises


The whole book is written in first person narrative from Song Leiyin's point of view and its divided into three parts. I do admit that in the beginning I cringed slightly at the language and the tone, but as more and more pages passed, the story drew me more and more, especially when some of my fears were unfounded. Whatever stereotypes you might have had towards Asian-American literature or whatever thoughts you developed when reading books written by Asian/Asian-American women writers, this book will cause you to toss them out the window and never look back. There is an amazing array of issues that are covered as well as unexpected sources of help and hindrance and surprising delights.

Author Information:

Born in Taiwan, Janie Chang spent part of her childhood in the Philippines, Iran, and Thailand. She holds a degree in computer science and is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University. Three Souls is her first novel.
Find out more about Janie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.


I admit it; I loved the book. It balanced out perfectly with fascinating characters, an interesting storyline and things to hit my love for different cultures and history. This book not only covers those issues, but at the same time it addresses afterlife, friendship, sisterhood and making peace with the future as well as sacrifices. While a lot of it does sound as if it should be a messy writing, that's really not the case. The writing is clear, and besides wondering what the heck hun soul is, I wasn't ever confused with the narrative. What I also appreciated is the fact that Asian men aren't all portrayed as evil.Some books I've read that do deal with East Asia, Asian men tend to be one dimensional and don't seem to satisfy women in one way or the other. I do admit it was annoying when an American male comes to the "rescue." What I did appreciate in the book is that an American male doesn't come and rescue the heroine, and neither does a Westernized Asian male. In fact, some of the Westernized Asian men are not portrayed positively in the book. But they are portrayed in a three dimensional way and they do make fascinating characters. I haven't read books by Lisa See, but I have read almost all of Amy Tan's books, and although there is supernatural in there, its much more believable than Amy Tan's portrayal. If you are looking for a book that tends to be sympathetic and fascinating but at the same time doesn't create the "fantasy" feeling that Amy Tan's books do, then this is the right book.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Janie’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, February 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, February 26th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, February 27th: From L.A. to LA
Monday, March 3rd: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, March 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, March 5th: Man of La Book
Thursday, March 6th: Drey’s Library
Monday, March 10th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, March 11th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, March 12th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, March 13th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Monday, March 17th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Tuesday, March 18th: Ageless Pages Reviews
4 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.)


  1. China, Opium, wars, movies, afterlife, three souls, supernatural, dreams, marriage, first love, Communism, education, reading, ghost, making amends, friendship, sisterhood, status of women...

    All in one book? Impressive!

  2. Ooh, what a great combination of themes! I can see why you loved this one!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. I liked this book as well (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=10202), while it didn't make me want to stay up all night reading, it certainly did capture my interest all the way to the end.


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