In a small village in China, the Wang family has produced seven sisters in its quest to have a boy; three of the sisters emerge as the lead characters in this remarkable novel. From the small-town treachery of the village to the slogans of the Cultural Revolution to the harried pace of city life, Bi Feiyu follows the women as they strive to change the course of their destinies and battle against an “infinite ocean of people” in a China that does not truly belong to them. Yumi will use her dignity, Yuxiu her powers of seduction, and Yuyang her ambition—all in an effort to take control of their world, their bodies, and their lives.
Like Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, and J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, Three Sisters transports us to and immerses us in a culture we think we know but will understand much more fully by the time we reach the end. Bi’s Moon Opera was praised by the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and other publications. In one review Lisa See said: “I hope this is the first of many of Bi’s works to come to us.” Three Sisters fulfills that wish, with its irreplaceable portrait of contemporary Chinese life and indelible story of three tragic and sometimes triumphant heroines.
With a mercilessly satirical eye, Bi (The Moon Opera) observes domestic and communal life in late 20th-century China as three of the seven daughters of Wang Lianfang strive for identity and self-respect. In 1971, when serial philanderer Wang is finally caught, he loses his job and the family loses face. Yumi, his eldest daughter, is forsaken by her fianc and becomes the second wife to an older man in a nearby town. This is a step up, but her new home is no less a hothouse of gossip and suspicion. The third sister, beautiful Yuxiu, follows Yumi with big hopes that are derailed by an unexpected pregnancy. A decade later, youngest sister Yuyang is poised to escape a dreary fate when she's accepted by a school in Beijing, but she, too, has heartbreak in store. Bi describes with a sober bluntness the coarse brutality and familial and community power jockeying that plays out in villages where life is governed by strict rituals, superstition, and folk beliefs. Drawn with dispassionate candor, this is a bleak tale of human miseries and of women struggling to survive in a culture that devalues them.