A Thread of Sky
Looking to reconnect with their ancestral home and with one another, three generations of women tour mainland China on a journey that will change their family forever.
A stunning debut, A Thread of Sky is the story of a family of women and the powerful thread that binds their lives. In following the paths chosen by six fiercely independent women, A Thread of Sky explores the terrain we must travel to recognize the strength and vulnerability of those closest to us.
When her husband of thirty years is killed in a devastating accident, Irene Shen and her three daughters are set adrift. Nora, the eldest, retreats into her high-powered New York job and a troubled relationship. Kay, the headstrong middle child, escapes to China to learn the language and heritage of her parents. Sophie, the sensitive and artistic youngest, is trapped at home until college, increasingly estranged from her family-and herself. Terrified of being left alone with her grief, Irene plans a tour of mainland China's must sees, reuniting three generations of women-her three daughters, her distant poet sister, and her formidable eighty-year-old mother-in a desperate attempt to heal her fractured family.
If only it was so easy. Each woman arrives bearing secrets big and small, and as they travel-visiting untouched sections of the Great Wall and the seedy bars of Shanghai, the beautiful ancient temples and cold, modern shopping emporiums-they begin to wonder if they will ever find the China they seek, the one their family fled long ago.
Over days and miles they slowly find their way toward a new understanding of themselves, of one another, and of the vast complexity of their homeland, only to have their new bonds tested as never before when the darkest, most carefully guarded secret of all tumbles to the surface and threatens to tear their family apart forever. A Thread of Sky is a beautifully written and deeply haunting story about love and sacrifice, history and memory, sisterhood and motherhood, and the connections that endure.
When Irene Shen's husband of 30 years walks out on her, she says, "Good riddance," only to learn hours later that he's been killed in a car accident. Stunned by the chain of events and dreading her imminent empty-nester status, Irene concocts a plan to strengthen blood ties through a family tour of China. But Irene's 80-year-old mother, Lin Yulan, in her youth a feminist revolutionary during the Chinese civil war, balks at returning to China, and Irene's three daughters Nora, a successful bond trader; Kay, a social activist; and Sophie, a talented artist are distracted by their own troubles. The characters are sympathetic and draw the reader easily into their tangled lives, but despite Fei's obvious talent, this debut has the feel of M.F.A. fiction. The hoary dictum "write what you know" hovers above every page of this novel. The story unfurls smoothly, yet never really touches the heart.