A Hundred Flowers
St. Martin’s, Aug 7 2012, $24.99
In 1957, Chairman Mao proclaimed “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” However, he failed to explain the unacceptable critiquing of the Party. Within one year of his declaration for open dialogue, the Communist party continues to round up the outspoken dissenters.
The police take history teacher Sheng Ying to a reeducation camp. His family is devastated by their loss of a loved one and on the economic impact of their new pariah status compounded by the incarceration of the breadwinner. His wife herbalist Kai Ying, their son Tao, his family friend Aunty Song, and his father art history professor Wei struggle with what has happened to Sheng. The adults try to hide the truth from Tao, but he learns about his father’s fate from taunting students at school. His grandfather admits his role in what occurred; further tearing apart a grieving frightened family.
This historical thriller is a great character study of a Chinese family caught up in Mao’s latest revolution. The perspective of life following a government sponsored rendition of a loved one is rotated between each member so that their fears and their interrelationships are fully developed yet also evolve since the abduction effects how each feel towards one another. Although there is no action, readers will appreciate the ordeal of a family and friends during the Hundred Flowers Campaign that challenged millennium of Chinese philosophy by going after the intellectuals.