A Map for the Missing by Belinda Huijuan Tang [in Shelf Awareness]
Debut author Belinda Huijuan Tang’s immigrant father is a gregarious storyteller, especially about his rural Chinese upbringing, but he has one story he’s never been able to finish, about his lost father. Tang empathically transforms that incomplete memory into her exquisite novel, A Map for the Missing. One late afternoon in January 1993, Tang Yitian receives a frantic call from his mother: his father has vanished. Fifteen years have passed since Yitian left the remote Tang Family Village and eight years since he moved with his wife from China to the U.S. for graduate school. He’s since landed in Palo Alto, Calif., where he’s an assistant professor of mathematics.
Yitian has little choice but to return home to search for the parent from whom he’s been estranged for his entire adulthood. He’s considered an American outsider now, even more so when he goes to the local police seeking assistance he will never get. He calls on a childhood friend in a nearby city whose husband is powerfully connected, a meeting that is both a reunion and a final parting. Yitian’s homegoing is aching with loss – that of his beloved grandfather, his older brother, his first love – yet ultimately proves surprisingly freeing.
Tang moved to China in 2016 for two years and pursued an M.A. at Peking University in Beijing, while spending time in her ancestral village, where she “wondered how fiction might take us on journeys impossible in reality.” The remarkable result is a gentle, detailed reveal of life-marking experiences; a time of hunger, both physical and intellectual in nature, of rejection and loss; and of unexpected love and healing forgiveness.
Discover: Belinda Huijuan Tang’s gorgeous debut novel about an immigrant son returning to China to search for his missing father manages to both shatter and comfort.