I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads, and I could not put it down for the five days it took me to read! I have a bad habit of skipping sentences or entire paragraphs when I’m reading a book that I’m really into, so I’m afraid I may have missed some details. One reason I loved this book is that it tells one woman’s entire life story. It follows her from childhood all the way up to her death. Books like this remind me that there are so many ups and downs in life. Just because you are heartbroken or questioning one moment does not mean you won’t have moments of joy and clarity later on, maybe sooner than you expect. Chye Hoon (the main character) is a strong and courageous woman who is willing to sacrifice much to keep her family happy and safe. As a child she is stubborn and passionate, always wanting to explore and learn. As she grows she accepts that there are certain expectations that her family has for her, while she is not always able to choose her own path she accepts her destiny with grace and always makes the best of every situation.
This book was eye opening for me. I grew up in a very western household, very individualistic and I was able to choose my own path from a very young age. While my family had certain expectations (i.e. be a good person, work hard. etc.) I was always encouraged to be myself and follow my heart. I realize that other cultures can be very different. There are many families where emphasis is put not on the individual but on the group. I can see the value in this way of going about things, and Chye Hoon did as well. Throughout the story Chye Hoon is always putting herself second to her family’s needs, and in this way she sacrifices her own needs and desires for those of the group. During this time period, the West was beginning to have a greater influence on the rest of the world and Chye Hoon’s children began to take interest in Western values and trends. Chye Hoon is heartbroken when she realizes that her children, and many of her peers, are losing interest in the values and traditions of her ancestors. Eventually Chye Hoon realizes that she will have to adjust as well, to her changing family and their ideals, or she will lose them. Her adaptability and humility in these situations just made me love her more.
I would definitely recommend this book, it took me to a place I have never been and opened my mind. And isn’t that what great books are all about?