As a writer I love books, and as a reader I love books even more. Not a day goes by when I don’t read something, anything. While I have read books which had a promising start but then quickly descend into something ordinary or even disappointing, many more stay with me long after I have put them down.
I am going to devote my blogs to a series of book reviews, and today I start with an excellent book, written by Canadian author Donna Carrick.
I have thoroughly enjoyed The First Excellence: Fa-Ling’s Map. Following the novel’s protagonist, I went on a journey, filled with intrigue and a few surprises. I was impressed with the author’s appreciation of and insight into Chinese culture and its current political situation. Through China’s persecution of Falun Gong (a religious sect) members, the author has expertly woven a story combining a personal journey of self-discovery to a wider scale, the more significant social and political agenda of the Chinese government. Her exploration of Chinese culture and Chinese people’s psyche is astounding and highly commended!
As someone who lived in China for more than 20 years, I could more or less claim that I am a China expert, but through Fa-ling’s eyes, I was discovering China all over again. I could totally relate to Fa-ling, who was born in China and then spent her formative years in another country. She needed that trip, to find answers to her questions, and as readers, we readily accompany her in her quest and just as eagerly to learn what she would find.
The characters in this book are colourful and expertly drawn. Each one of the Canadian couples who went to China to adopt comes alive as we follow their footsteps, as well as the Chinese Policemen and other secondary characters. As the story progresses, we learn a bit more about their motivations and their lives. While it is a modern tragedy that China has many abandoned babies, and international adoptions have been all the rage for some years, it is through Carrick’s story that we get an in-depth look behind this phenomenon. It is with great skill that the author approaches this sensitive subject with compassion, not utter condemnation. A condescending and scathing attack on China’s human rights and other faults would have been a easy trap to fall into, but Carrick manages the balance of being both revealing as well as understanding, a wonderful achievement!
As I write this, I have learnt that Carrick has been recognized for her excellent work for the Indie Author Event award and will be attending the ceremony in New York at the end of July 2011. While I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the author’s much deserved win, I look forward to reading more of her wonderful stories in the future. May you have a long and successful writing career, Donna!