It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of
China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an
oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China.
Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story
of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.
Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when
he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification
of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been
killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen
joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated
from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered,
trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family
of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons
and eventually came to discover the details of her husband's death.
In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wen's journey, writing
beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was
enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at
the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting
tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.
For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a nightly radio programme in China called "Words on the Night Breeze", during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Her first book, The Good Women of China, is the story of how she reached out to women across the country, despite the restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists. She reveals stories of inconceivable suffering; forced marriages, sexual abuse, repression...Yet above all her stories reveal how love survives; that despite cruelty, despite politics, the female urge to nurture and cherish remains - Sky Burial is a novelization of one of the stories she was told. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Ada Calhoun
While she is shocked by Tibetan customs...she is far more startled by the political upheaval she discovers upon her return to China in the early 1990's. Even at the end of her journey she finds no real peace, and her story is heartwrenching from beginning to end.
Woven through with fascinating details of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, Xinran's story portrays a poignant, beautiful attempt at reconciliation.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
In crystalline prose as measured as the breath of a yogi, Xinran perfectly renders the emotional evolution of a mourning woman alone in a mysterious land, and gorgeously evokes the vast and timeless grandeur of Tibet, the physically arduous yet spiritually resonant lives of Tibetans, and the transforming power of love.
Library Journal - Shirley N. Quan
Genuinely moving and fast-paced, this smooth translation will give readers a taste of Tibetan culture; the story should appeal to a wide audience and will especially resonate with those who have ever personally set off in search of a lost loved one. Highly recommended.
A picaresque fairy tale with elements of National Geographic, but also lovely, spare and mystical.
A romantic epic of loss and redemption, of stoic constancy in the face of the vagaries of fate.
The Guardian - Giles Foden
Part family story, part mystical adventure. It's like Wild Swans crossed
with Seven Years in Tibet.
This story of one extraordinary woman written by another extraordinary woman
will stay with you long after closing the book.
I read Sky Burial in one sitting, not being able to wait to get to the end of the tale. I've read love stories before, but none like this. One could only wish to be loved so, or, even better, to love so.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kdee Highly recommended Sky Burial is a wonderfully emotional story, rich in Tibetan custom. Part war story, mystery, rich in spirituality, Sky Burial begins and ends as an epic love story that will amaze as well as tear at your heart long after you have finished your... Read More
Rated of 5
by Lindsay Loved it I read this book so quickly and was so disappointed when it ended. Now I'm looking to know if there will be a follow up on Shu Wen.
Rated of 5
by Jo Unsatisfied As a year 12 student sky Burial has been put on my English list to be studied. I was not was thrilled to have it there, but after putting it off too long I decided to read it. I read it in one sitting, not because I couldn't put in down, but... Read More
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