Monday, March 24, 2008

Review: Feather in the Storm

Summary: Emily Wu’s account of her childhood under Mao opens on her third birthday, as she meets her father for the first time in a concentration camp. A well-known academic, her father had been designated an “ultra-rightist” and class enemy. As a result, Wu’s family would be torn apart and subjected to unending humiliation and abuse. Wu recounts this hidden holocaust in which millions of children and their families died. Feather in the Storm is an unforgettable story of the courage of one child in a quicksand world of endless terror.

I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have ever picked up this book. I don't read a lot of non-fiction unless the book is highly recommended or on the best-seller lists. Fortunately for me, I received FEATHER IN THE STORM by Emily Wu and Larry Engelmann from Anchor Books a few weeks ago. I have had it sitting in my TBR pile and kept reading other books first. What a big mistake! If I had known how incredible this book was, I would have read it immediately.

This book did take me a little bit longer to read than most books this size. I have a lot going on right now, but that usually doesn't stop me from flying through a good book. I think because this book was so tragic, I couldn't read more than a few chapters at a time. I just had to absorb/process all of the heartache and pain that the author experienced at such a young age.

I hate to even admit how ignorant I was on the subject of China's history, especially the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (1958 - 1977) that were covered in this book. This book definitely opened my eyes and taught me so much. I will not hesitate to read additional books, both fiction and non-fiction, on this subject matter. While I was saddened by what so many Chinese people went through during these years, I have to say that I was fascinated by the story. Their strength and resilience was incredible uplifting and helped to off-set the horrors they faced. I have no idea how so many of them persevered and still found things to be grateful for. I was very much reminded of books that I have read about the Holocaust.

I thought this book was beautifully written. Many of the descriptions were very vivid, and I could clearly picture all of the scenes. What I really loved about this book was that the story of these horrific times was told from a child's point-of-view. Ms. Wu was a particularly bright child and understood way too much for a child her age, but she still was innocent enough to continue holding out with a hope for better times.

The book ends shortly after Mao dies and Ms. Wu gets accepted into college. I know that she and her family currently live in the United States, so I can assume that she has had somewhat "happy ending." In fact, the only negative thing that I can say about this book is that it left me wanting more -- that's probably not a bad thing. I found her story fascinating and would like to know what happened to her after she began college.

Ms. Wu comes from an amazingly strong family -- her parents were incredible through this entire experience. Her father, Ningkun Wu, also wrote an autobiography called A SINGLE TEAR which was a New York Times Notable Book. I would love to read this book sometime, too. Ms. Wu is also one of the featured subjects in the movie Up to the Mountain, Down to the Village.

This book was so beautiful and yet so touching. It is not a book that I will forget anytime soon.


Amy said...

sounds like a good one. I generally really enjoy stories set in Asia. Thanks for the review!

Julie said...

wpIt seems that lately books about China, either fiction or non-fiction are on the rise. Saying that I have Peony in Love in my TBR pile. I also have had several people recommend Wild Swans by Jung Chang which is during Mao's reign.

Julie P. said...

I think I'll be adding Wild Swans to my TBR list!

Anonymous said...

Great review - I enjoy memoirs on subjects I know little. I'll add this to my tbr.