Judith S. (Santa Clarita, California)
Resilience and stubbornness to survive
“She marveled at nature's resiliency, its sheer stubbornness to survive.”
Those are the thoughts of Auntie Song, one of the characters in Gail Tsukiyama’s newest book. It is the story of an extended family told from five different perspectives through a year of many changes. Some of the challenges they face are common to many lives; a child’s accident, grief at the death of a spouse, the birth of a child. Other concerns are unique to the cataclysmic social changes of Mao Tse-Tung’s regime.
The family consists of Kai Ying, the mother of Tao, her elderly father-in law, Wei, and Auntie Song, a courtesy aunt who occupies a portion of their family home. As the year progresses a pregnant , homeless teenager joins the family. Much of the family’s unique distress is due to its absent member. Sheng, the husband, the father, the beloved son, has been arrested and sent to a distant reeducation camp.
I liked all of these characters. They are very human in their strengths and weaknesses. Kai Ying has admirable sensitivity to her patients as she prepares her herbal remedies and Auntie Song’s optimism and strong survival instincts are inspiring. The book is somewhat slow and occasionally disjointed as the storytelling shifts from one person to another, but the overall picture of this family was very satisfying. They have nature’s resiliency and a sheer stubbornness to survive.
Amy L. (Tucson, AZ)
Another Gentle Winner
Gail Tsukiyama is an author I greatly admired. Her "Samurai's Garden" is one of my favorite books, for its exquisite prose, dignity, nobility and simplicity. "A Hundred Flowers" is marked by the same simplicity, nobility and dignity. Set during Mao's cultural revolution, it shows us the impact of the revolution from the multiple viewpoints of family members. Each narrator (boy, mother, grandfather and aunt/family friend) provides a unique view of the same events while revealing deeply personal information. It is a moving affirmation of life during a difficult period in Chinese history.
Patricia K. (Oak Park, California)
A Hundred Flowers
A Hundred Flowers is a gentle story of a Chinese family in the early years of China under Chairman Mao. When Kai Yang's husband Sheng is shipped off to a labor camp, the family could fall apart, but instead, they quietly learn to support each other with quiet dignity.
I liked the book, especially watching how each member of the family was affected and how each, on their own terms, looked inward and grew stronger before they could come back together as a family.
Teresa M. (Naples, FL)
A Hundred Flowers
I've read two of the author's previous books and especially loved The Samurai's Garden. Tsukiyama is a gifted writer who creates wonderful characters reader's grow to love. I also enjoy learning something new, and in this book, we learn about Mao's "Hundred Flowers Campaign" started in the 1950"s, and used to flush out dissidents and subsequently imprison them.
The story centers around a family torn apart by Mao's campaign, and one of the character's quotes nicely sums up the book, "Sometimes the best lessons are in the journey, regardless of the outcome."
Margaret O. (Bonita Springs, FL)
A Hundred Flowers
This is the first book by GAIL TSUKIYMA that I have read and I look forward to reading more. This story is set in Mao’s communist China in the once prosperous small town of Dongshan.. Life was getting harder all the time for Wei’s family but they were managing under the new rule of the land that began by Mao ten years earlier until one letter changed everything overnight. As Wei’s only son Sheng, a high school history teacher, is sent to a “reeducation” camp we get to know each of the family members over the next year as they lose contact with Sheng and deal with this blow to their everyday lives. Each of the characters shares his thoughts and feelings in their own voice. This writing style allows one to identify with the characters (especially Sheng’s wife and 6 year-old son) as the setting and political situation is described through their eyes. I found the introduction of two additional characters (Suyin and Tian) very thought provoking as it illustrates the idea that people come into our lives for a reason if we are only open to them.
The author does not give us a neat, happy ending but rather tells it like it is with the emphasis on the importance of family relationships and hope to help us accept difficult situations and go forward.
Roni S. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A Hundred Flowers
I have enjoyed reading other books by this author, Gail Tsukiyama. She writes with tenderness. The language is simple and paints a picture. In "A Hundred Flowers," each chapter is the voice of a character. We get a true understanding of each once - their struggles, their courage, and their hopes. Each character has depth.
The book begins in China, 1957, when the country is controlled by Chairman Mao. The book is similar to "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See.
One of the main characters in "A Hundred Flowers" is an herbalist so anyone who liked
"Mistress of Spices" (India setting) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, might also like this book. I recommend this to book clubs and anyone interested in Chinese history.
Erica M. (Chicago, IL)
The Gentleness of A Hundred Flowers
I so loved "The Samurai's Garden", that I always want to read everything that Tsukiyama writes. Unfortunately, I have never found a book of hers to rival my favorite. Her writing, her characters, her character development are always lovely. There is a peacefulness and gentleness in the way she approaches her characters and her subject that is just soothing. Although I loved the writing, I did not find myself as captivated by this story as I was by "The Samurai's Garden". Although, it still had it's twist of plot - as did "Samurai's Garden", which is Tsykiyama's hallmark.