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February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community - conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family - the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.
As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan's history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan's transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: How far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Cherilyn Parsons on 05-04-16
Wonderful sweeping saga
I was completely swept up in this book that bridged from colonial times up through martial law and into democracy in Taiwan... And also wound to Berkeley, California. I've never been to Taiwan and now am interested in going. This book gave such a rich experience of its history, expressed through the lives of many compelling characters.
The narrator is fallible – we see that – and yet we stay with her, chagrined sometimes at what she's doing but also understanding it. I especially enjoyed all the sensory details in the novel. The writer takes time to depict just what the narrator is feeling in her body and experiencing in her surroundings. It makes the book so lush.
I listened to this book around the house and while driving in my car, and it was something I wanted to return to as much as I could. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful