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Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu [in Library Journal]

Three SistersAlthough the cover of Bi’s novel displays a character for “triple happiness” – ostensibly representing the eponymous three sisters – readers shouldn’t expect a happily-ever-after tale. After seven daughters, Party Secretary Wang sees his self-esteem redeemed with the birth of a son. Firstborn Yumi, the de facto matriarch, reclaims the family’s dignity by parading the prized baby before her father’s mistresses. But Wang’s philandering shatters Yumi’s own marriage prospects, and Yumi leaves the constrictive Wang Family Village as the lesser second wife of an older city official. Third sister Yuxiu eventually joins Yumi’s household, having nowhere else to go as she is “ruined” after being brutally gang-raped. The promise of an education helps seventh sister Yuyang escape, but her academic career is hardly stellar.

Verdict: Bi (The Moon Opera) is an award-winning Chinese novelist and screenwriter, but his presumptive efforts to capture the three sisters’ deepest thoughts and feelings prove superficial and unconvincing. Readers interested in the challenging lives of China’s ordinary citizens during the Cultural Revolution will better appreciate such resonating titles as Yiyun Li’s The Vagrants, Yu Hua’s Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, or Xinran’s nonfiction The Good Women of China.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, March 15, 2010

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)


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