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 Chinas recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.
The Year of the Dog
Beginnings are always difficult, especially when you have lived as
long as I have. I could start by telling you that this is a simple story
about two hearts and the way they are intertwined. But that wont
do. The Jade Emperor would not like that at all. I think I will have
to go a little further back.
In a small border town huddled at the furthest reaches of a northern province, there was an old teahouse. It was winter there, thousands of years ago. And inside was the owner, his face flushed despite the frost that had turned his windows into rivers of curdled milk. He bolted the door at the end of the night and ran a wet rag through his hands. As he moved, sweat slipped between the folds of his shirt. He had been pacing between the tables since morning. Lukewarm tea sat in a squat clay cup on one of the dark wooden tables, the leaves sunk to the bottom like broken lilies given up on light.
The teahouse was situated at the end of a ...
Under Fishbone Clouds is at once an examination of the nature of love and the human heart, a survey of 20th century Chinese history, an introduction to Chinese mythology and philosophy, and a poetic work of contemporary fiction. It is one of the best books I've read in a while, and will surely only get better upon a second reading. I highly recommend it!
(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
Full Review (1177 words).
The Kitchen God
The playful yet poignant narrator of Sam Meekings's Under Fishbone Clouds introduces himself as Zao Jun, a being who, before becoming the Kitchen God, was a mortal human. There are many versions of his story spread throughout different regions of China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, coming from both Taoist and Buddhist traditions, though mythologists date the most popular version back to the Han Dynasty in the 2nd Century BC.
Though pointedly different than Meekings's version, it is traditionally said that Zhang Lang (as he was known during his time on earth) married an honorable woman, Guo Ding Xiang, but left her for a younger, prettier womanan act for which he was ...
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