Their divine fires A novel

Wendy Chen, 1992-

Book - 2024

"At the turn of the twentieth century, Yun Hong is born into a loving family in the southern China countryside, but as Communism consumes her older brothers, it threatens her stability-and her love affair with the son of a wealthy landlord. The line of women who later descend from Yun Hong share the burden of a family birthmark and are also each forced to reckon with both dramatic political change and the ghosts of the past."--

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FICTION/Chen Wendy
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Domestic fiction
Historical fiction
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2024.
Main Author
Wendy Chen, 1992- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
278 pages : genealogical table ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Every generation of women in Emily's family is connected by a red birthmark "so they would never lose each other again," according to an old legend. They also share an unmatched resilience that ensures their survival, again and again. In the buildup to the Chinese Revolution of 1949, Yunhong must choose between salvaging what's left of her family and her own aspirations. While she dreams of marrying the son of a rich lord, her brothers become entangled in the revolt, which her parents refuse to acknowledge. The ensuing tragedy cracks open a deep sorrow that continues to haunt Yunhong's daughter and her two granddaughters and eventually makes its way across the ocean. Emily, their descendent in present-day Boston, tries to understand the complicated relationships of the women in her family. But to do so, she must unravel their past and finally lay bare the pain that comes with it. This powerful yet tender epic is perfect for readers of intergenerational fiction driven by strong female leads.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Four generations of a Chinese and Chinese American family navigate the ties and trials of kinship. Chen begins her first novel with a fairytale romance in rural pre-communist China. Yunhong, whose name translates as something like Clouds of Happy Red, is from the Zhangs, a family of modest means, and her beau is the son of a local lord. But their marriage in 1927 is short-lived. One of her brothers is among the revolutionaries who ransack the lord's house and kill her husband. The time shifts to 1967 and Nanjing. Yunhong's twin granddaughters march off to school carrying Mao's Little Red Book. Children have names like Leap Forward and Resist America. One twin loses her lover when he's rusticated, like so many during the Cultural Revolution, and dies. The other, Hongxing, dreams of "joining an art troupe" and falls into a forbidden love. The book's last big section jumps to the U.S. in the years 2004-2009. While some family members left China for the U.S., one who remained is Hongxing. She enjoyed a successful acting career until her illicit love emerged and she was "erased from public memory by the government." Feeling utterly alone, she visits her sister in the U.S. and hopes to persuade her to have their ailing mother buried in China. Chen's narrative is full of poignant family moments set against the larger canvas of history, while singular and recurring images link the fragmented narrative: a birthmark carried by daughters; a silk-lined trunk and its keepsakes handed down across generations; memories that are rendered as bedtime stories with dragons and princes; an old damaged photo restored by computer to startling clarity. Throughout, the author depicts women who find in themselves the strength to be more than the times might allow and in their families a sweet solace amid that struggle. A poignant, impressive debut. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.