Under Fishbone Clouds
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Under Fishbone Clouds is a universal love story, a family saga, and a journey through Chinese history, myth, and culture. Following a young Chinese couple as their love grows, and is tested, during Mao's Cultural Revolution, this elegant debut novel provides a rare and personal glimpse into the birth modern China.
When the Kitchen God is challenged by the Jade Emperor to fathom the workings of the human heart, he chooses to follow the life of Jinyi and his wife Yuying, from their blossoming love until their old age, in hope of finding an answer. The Kitchen God watches as the new government strictures split their family in two, living inside their hearts as they they endure the loss of two children, homesickness, and isolation, all while keeping alive a love that survives famine, forced labor, and even death. Weaving together the story of their life with China’s recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.
Their destination, the slimy mulch of a forest of evergreens, was still only a blurry wave on the horizon. Turkey took off one of his shoes and cursed. ‘Stupid thing. The heel is full of holes – look! My socks are the same, the ones that aren’t waterlogged, that is. My wife used to sew and darn and all that. I’m not sure I can do it on my own.’ Not wanting that kind of talk to overcome them before they had even started the difficult part of the day, Jinyi waved his arm and the four of them
grandson’s old room in Liqui’s flat for the last year and a half. The family had felt that to enter the hospital permanently would be to admit two things that they did not want to acknowledge: first, that they could no longer cope with looking after him, and second, that there was little chance of him recovering. So much better to let him die peacefully in a familiar bed, surrounded by the loving faces of his family. However, his violent fits and terrors had now precluded that possibility.
mountain tracks, and men with typewriters and bone-bending munitions balanced on their backs. That is where knowledge receded into the plains. They might have been tempted to believe that history had ended, that each day was a repetition of the one before, with one crucial difference: each day fewer and fewer of them made it to the camps, barns, caves, forests or safe havens before darkness distorted their line of vision and drew in their borders. Trees transformed into soldiers at night, their
she muttered the rhymes under her breath as she squatted in the turned earth, her muddy hands gripping a rusty trowel. And where once the poems had seemed surreal, strange and giddily romantic to her, they now seemed hard, crisp, unyielding. The scrunch of leaves underfoot; lone, soaring birds; abandoned temples, empty villages; moonlight seeping under doors and through the cracks in walls or reflected in the swell of a river – all of these images had become entwined with her new home, with the
after work, Yuying pushed the bland and rubbery cabbage around the bowl, trying not to look at her mother sitting across from her. The two of them were in the dining room, which had once been used only for special occasions, but was now so packed with spiders’ webs that it resembled a river through which translucent nets were carelessly trawled. Her mother was still not used to surviving without a cook, and was trying to reclaim some simple recipes from memory. It was a doomed endeavor,