Green Island: Book summary and reviews of Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

Green Island

by Shawna Yang Ryan

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan X
Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2016
    400 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A story of love, betrayal, and family, set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century.

February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community - conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family - the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.  

As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan's history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan's transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: how far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [An] engrossing epic... Absorbing and affecting, this powerful tale explores the bond between a father and daughter, the compromises they are forced to make, and the prices they pay in their quest for freedom." - Booklist

"Epic... The narrative works movingly on many different levels but especially on the personal and the political." - Kirkus

"Green Island is a tough, unsentimental and moving novel that is a memorial not only to the heroes, but also to the survivors." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer

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Author Information

Shawna Yang Ryan

Shawna Yang Ryan is a former Fulbright scholar and the author of one previous novel, Water Ghosts; she teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and Berkeley Fiction Review. She lives in Honolulu.

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