I received a review copy of Apologies Forthcoming by Xujun Eberlein from Mary Lewis at Blog Stop Book Tours. I can’t agree to read everything that’s offered to me, but I was intrigued by this book because it’s a bunch of short stories that take place either during or after China’s Cultural Revolution.
If I had known how much I would love these short stories, I would have started reading it the instant it hit my mailbox and wouldn’t have put it down until I was done.
I should say here that I’m a little intimidated to be writing this review. I feel like some surfer dude and all I’m going to sound like is, “Hey, dude! These stories are khiller, man.” I’m sure you’d be intimidated, too, if you were reviewing a book by someone who’d grown up in China and received her Ph.D. from MIT.
Xujun is able to convey the mood of the people in China both during and after the cultural revolution. This is one of those books that transports you to the setting of the story. The stories feel authentic, aided by a writing style that can be choppy and awkward. The stories are so diverse that everyone will find something to relate to: from star-crossed lovers to children who learn to enjoy violence to loyalties betrayed.
One of my favorite stories was Feathers, about a girl, Sail, whose older sister, Jia, is a casualty of the cultural revolution. The mother decides that instead of telling the grandmother the truth, believing that the grandmother would die from grief, the family will act as if Jia is still alive, continuing to receive “letters” from her and keeping up the façade. The story is told from Sail’s point of view, and it’s heartbreaking to watch Sail lose much of her youth as she weaves stories about her sister and why her sister can’t come home to visit.
As I was going through the stories, I couldn’t help but wonder why this author hasn’t written a novel yet. She obviously has the talent. I hope that her experience with this collection of stories will nudge her in that direction. My only complaint about this book is that the first story was the only story that didn’t suck me in. The first story caused me to put the book aside in favor of something that caught my interest faster. Any of the other stories would have been good as the first story to start off the collection. I worry others won’t stick with the book after reading the first story.
Rating: 90 out of 100
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