A Thread of Sky: Book summary and reviews of A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei

A Thread of Sky

A Novel

By Deanna Fei

A Thread of Sky
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2010,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

Looking to reconnect with their ancestral home and with one another, three generations of women tour mainland China on a journey that will change their family forever.

A stunning debut, A Thread of Sky is the story of a family of women and the powerful thread that binds their lives. In following the paths chosen by six fiercely independent women, A Thread of Sky explores the terrain we must travel to recognize the strength and vulnerability of those closest to us.

When her husband of thirty years is killed in a devastating accident, Irene Shen and her three daughters are set adrift. Nora, the eldest, retreats into her high-powered New York job and a troubled relationship. Kay, the headstrong middle child, escapes to China to learn the language and heritage of her parents. Sophie, the sensitive and artistic youngest, is trapped at home until college, increasingly estranged from her family - and herself. Terrified of being left alone with her grief, Irene plans a tour of mainland China's must sees, reuniting three generations of women - her three daughters, her distant poet sister, and her formidable eighty-year-old mother - in a desperate attempt to heal her fractured family.

If only it was so easy. Each woman arrives bearing secrets big and small, and as they travel - visiting untouched sections of the Great Wall and the seedy bars of Shanghai, the beautiful ancient temples and cold, modern shopping emporiums - they begin to wonder if they will ever find the China they seek, the one their family fled long ago.

Over days and miles they slowly find their way toward a new understanding of themselves, of one another, and of the vast complexity of their homeland, only to have their new bonds tested as never before when the darkest, most carefully guarded secret of all tumbles to the surface and threatens to tear their family apart forever. A Thread of Sky is a beautifully written and deeply haunting story about love and sacrifice, history and memory, sisterhood and motherhood, and the connections that endure.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With its mother-daughter conflicts, a feminist message, and an exploration of Chinese roots, this novel will appeal to fans of Amy Tan as well as readers who generally enjoy ... Julia Alvarez, Gish Jen, and Gus Lee" - Library Journal

"Fei stakes a claim in Amy Tan territory with this satisfying tale." - Booklist

"A Thread of Sky is a remarkable debut by a gifted young novelist. Deanna Fei is an accomplished writer with keen insight into cross-cultural Chinese-American rootlessness and the ties that bind women of several generations. A wonderful book!" - Anita Shreve, author of A Change in Altitude

"A Thread of Sky is a lyrical journey through the heart of contemporary China, and the family of women who make the pilgrimage across these pages are as complicated, broad-ranging, and fascinating as the country itself. Deanna Fei is one to watch." - Ann Patchett, author of Run and Bel Canto

"The story unfurls smoothly, yet never really touches the heart." - Publishers Weekly

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Lisa B. (Denton, TX)
Loosely woven threads
I really enjoyed the book and thought it was well written and the characters were well developed. It reminded me a lot of an Amy Tan book, as other reviews have mentioned. The relationships between all the women in the book read so much like real life.

I think the book could have been improved by cutting out the rambling thoughts and preachy internal dialogue. It slowed the pace of the book and slowed down my reading. I found myself quickly skimming those sections so that I could get to the real meat of the story.

Overall, I think it was definitely worth reading and I have been suggesting it to my friends.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carole A. (Denver, CO)
The beauty of this book is the journey!
A Thread of Sky was well written about three generations of Chinese women and their journey together - and alone. This novel could have been about three generations of women in any family. While part of the same family or a single thread they all have their own journey that has changed them and taken them apart. The beauty of this book is the hanging on to that single thread which is family. Descriptions of China through different eyes was an interesting background. Bravo to Fei - may she continue to write and grow!

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Tricia L. (Auburn, WA)
It was interesting, but wasn't enough to make me go wow.
I was so looking forward to reading this book because a dear friend just was in China. I have to say her emails about the culture and what she experienced were more engaging. I did not connect with the story in a meaningful way, but I did enjoy it. I love to read, but this one won't be read again.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kate S. (arvada, CO)
Unraveled Threads
I was anxious to read this book because I thought the subject had so much potential. It was not a bad read; not a great one either. I felt like all the characters were too similar in that they were all unsatisfied, and unfulfilled with their lives. I could not identify with, or really have empathy with any of them. The writing was also average. I felt like I was reading a first time author. With so many exceptional books in the market this is one that I would not recommend for my book club.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Lou M. (kennebunkport, maine)
A First Novel! Are you sure?
Not a book I would think to purchase; a book I enjoyed reading.
Another good example of how reviewing books has broadened my reading horizons. This is a terrific first novel because: Ms Fei has presented the story in a very professional, well organized manner; because, through flashbacks,
she has described cultural and national changes and how they have affected the lives of three generations. Although the story takes place in China and is about Chinese Americans, it could be about any family with immigrant antecedents. i liked that. She emphasized human beings, not a country. I am an old guy who was an early tourist (1979) when China was first opening to foreigners. There are many stories to tell, but suffice it to say that the cultural changes Fei describes and her comments about the various national movements are succinct and well done. This is a good book club book. i will recommend it to the group I lead.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Myra B. (corvallis, oregon)
A thread of Sky by Deanna Fei
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The interwoven relationships between the women is what I found most appealing. Five women from three generations in very different places in their lives travel to China to reconnect to each other. Through their travels, many family secrets come to light. Sharing the secrets brings these women closer together and more understanding of each others lives.

...14 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Deanna Fei was born in Flushing, New York, and has lived in Beijing and Shanghai, China. A graduate of Amherst College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received a Fulbright grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and a Chinese cultural scholarship, among other awards. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches in public schools and is at work on her second novel. Visit Deanna at www.deannafei.com

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