Longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s 2022 First Novel Prize!
“Belinda Huijuan Tang’s debut novel is a beautifully drawn, sensitively rendered portrait of a man desperately searching for his father—and for reconnection to the past and people he once knew and loved. Both rich in historical detail and timeless in scope, A Map for the Missing explores the costs of choosing your own path, whether what’s left behind can ever be retrieved, and whether it is possible to forgive the wounds we inevitably inflict on each other.” —Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
“An engrossing saga of a young mathematician caught between two countries, two cultures, two eras, and two loves. Set against the violent turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this powerful debut explores the wrenching impact of political ideologies on individual lives in a way that is resonant and timely.” —Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness and A Tale for the Time Being
An epic, mesmerizing debut novel set against a rapidly changing post–Cultural Revolution China, A Map for the Missing reckons with the costs of pursuing one’s dreams and the lives we leave behind
Tang Yitian has been living in America for almost a decade when he receives an urgent phone call from his mother: his father has disappeared from the family’s rural village in China. Though they have been estranged for years, Yitian promises to come home.
When Yitian attempts to piece together what may have happened, he struggles to navigate China’s impenetrable bureaucracy as an outsider, and his mother’s evasiveness only deepens the mystery. So he seeks out a childhood friend who may be in a position to help: Tian Hanwen, the only other person who shared Yitian’s desire to pursue a life of knowledge. As a teenager, Hanwen was “sent down” from Shanghai to Yitian’s village as part of the country’s rustication campaign. Young and in love, they dreamed of attending university in the city together. But when their plans resulted in a terrible tragedy, their paths diverged, and while Yitian ended up a professor in America, Hanwen was left behind, resigned to life as a midlevel bureaucrat’s wealthy housewife.
Reuniting for the first time as adults, Yitian and Hanwen embark on the search for Yitian’s father, all the while grappling with the past—who Yitian’s father really was, and what might have been. Spanning the late 1970s to 1990s and moving effortlessly between rural provinces and big cities, A Map for the Missing is a deeply felt examination of family and forgiveness, and the meaning of home.