…by Amy Tan. Olivia, daughter of an American-Chinese couple (American mother, Chinese father), is born and brought up in California. In his death bed, Olivia’s father lets his wife know that he has another daughter in China and that he would like for the family to adopt her. Olivia’s half sister, Kwan, arrives from China at the age of eighteen, and thus begins the story of the relationship that blooms between Olivia and Kwan.
Olivia finds it hard to relate to whatever Kwan does or says, and at times, feels overwhelmed by Kwan. Kwan, with her deep roots in Chinese traditions and culture, reveals to Olivia that she can see ghosts, Yin people as she calls them, and that she remembers things from her past life. Olivia ignores her sister’s eccentricities for a while, but hearing about Kwan’s past life over the years, Olivia finds herself fascinated by the tales from time to time. And Olivia’s interest in her sister’s tales is kindled more when opportunity arrives for her to travel to China with her husband Simon and her sister Kwan.
The rest of novel moves on to show how Kwan’s past life stories relate the present; how Olivia finds a new found love for her sister in China; how life changes after the visit to China; and much more.
A story about the bond shared by sisters, this book brings some powerful emotions. Olivia’s dislike for Kwan’s quirks, Kwan’s unconditional love for her sister, the struggles that Olivia and Simon go through as a couple, the ups and downs of each relationship – everything is portrayed an insightful way. Also, the author does an amazing job of describing the abundant natural beauty of China, every now and then. This is a book that will surely make an impression on the reader, both because of the story and the author’s writing style.
One point I found a little confusing in the beginning was the side by side narration of the present and Kwan’s past life. Another point that kept me from totally enjoying the book was that I did not like Olivia’s character – I found her too cranky and unreasonable at times…but then, the character fits the story as a whole, so I guess I won’t complain much about it. Also, the story moves slow in parts, but that doesn’t stop one from sinking into the beauty of the book.
Overall, this magical tale of love, relationships and optimism written in an appealing style, is worth the read.
My rating: 3*.
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