15 December 2014

Review #102: Living Tresaures by Yang Huang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In China, women are pressured, and in some cases forced, to abort if they already have one child. Abortion is extremely common and widely accepted. Hence, the women in China say:

“It’s a rather common occurrence, [like eating] an ordinary kind of food. There’s nothing worth talking about.”

Yang Huang, a Chinese author, showed us how harsh the situation in the rural areas in China was when the one-child policy established by the government, in her debut book, Living Treasures . Living Treasures was a Bellwether Prize finalist, which is a strong historical novel set in China against the one-child policy.

Set in China during the tumultuous Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, Living Treasures portrays the crusade of Gu Bao, a girl who grows up under the Chinese government’s one-child policy. The Chinese government has enforced strict controls to keep the country from environmental destitution and poverty ever since Mao’s ban on family planning left China a legacy of 1.1 billion people, 20% of the population on earth.

Bao searches for her inner strength while exploring the Sichuan mountain landscape. She befriends a panda mother caught in a poacher’s snare, and an expectant young mother hiding from villainous one-child policy enforcers bent on giving compulsory abortions. All struggle against society to preserve the treasure of their little ones. Bao devises a daring plan that changes the lives of everyone around her. Will Bao earn a second chance to save a family from destruction? What price will Bao pay to prevent a full-term abortion and save a panda cub?

18-year old Gu Bao's life, who is a first-year law student changes drastically on June 1989 when a student demonstration against the government in Tiananmen Square goes out of control. However, she herself was not present in the demonstration, but on that very day, Gu Bao falls pregnant with her young soldier lover. Following which Gu Boa's parents forced her to abort the child by brainwashing her. Gu Bao went to her grandparent’s village, where she grew up, to have the procedure. It is where Gu Bao realizes the harsh condition of expectant mothers, forced to abort their child by the one-child policy enforcers. Gu Bao jumps to rescue a young expecting mother who went into hiding in the woods, even if she has to sacrifice her own ability to become a mother.

Gu Bao is a brave and strong-willed character. I never came across a woman like who would jump into fire just to save another's. Moreover, Gu Bao's demeanor astounded me when her parents forced to abort her own child. She did not even utter a word for her defense. She simply obliged.

What is astonishing is that this story's backdrop is actually set on a poignant love story whose strings will pull you deeper into the core of this heart-touching story. Though the relationship was highly forbidden on the face of Bao's parents, teachers and law, still their blossoming, passionate chemistry will fill you up with warmth. Not only has that Huang skillfully interwoven various issues faced by a young unmarried woman back in 1989 in China. It seems Huang used the notion of China's national treasure- Giant Panda, metaphorically to contrast the stark in-differences faced by an expecting woman and the mother Panda trying to nourish her cub.

Yang Huang intricately detailed and delicately captured the bright landscapes, culture, superstitions, heritage, sights, and sounds of Pingwu County countryside and the city of Nanjing. Reading which will completely transport your mind and soul into the forbidden lands of China. From the very first page, I felt that very essence of China that drew my senses as well as my heart into the very core of the story.

The third-person narration is lyrical yet literary and flows like a free-flowing river. Living Treasures is a gripping and extraordinary historical and cultural novel that declares author Yang Huang as a talented, master storyteller.

Verdict: This historically as well as culturally-rich novel set in China will only swoon your heart and mind.

Courtesy: I would like to thank the author, Yang Huang, for giving me the opportunity to read and review her debut novel. 

Author Info:
Yang Huang is a fiction writer, a computer engineer (working at U. C. Berkeley), and a mother of two boys. 
Her debut novel Living Treasures was published on Oct. 23, 2014.
She writes fiction about the “Grass People” in China. People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. Grass people have little voice or political power but live as best they can in an unjust society.

Visit her here

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