Under the Red Moon by Amy S. Kwei

Under the Red Moon

A Chinese Family in Diaspora
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Kwei (A Concubine for the Family, 2012, etc.) chronicles a Chinese family through exile, homecoming, and Maoism in this historical novel.

At school in Syracuse, New York, in May 1945, Golden Bell feels insulated from the war in her native China. When she has a vision of her father with bloodstains on his robe, she knows he has been killed in the bombing of Chunking. In New York, Golden Bell is a member of a small, traumatized community of exiles and refugees, many of whom have lost relatives as a result of the Japanese occupation. Her younger sister, Silver Bell, ferried out of China by the family’s American tutor, witnessed the invasion of Hong Kong and the death of their half-sister. Even so, Silver Bell is acclimating to life in America better than Golden Bell, who finds Americans to be uninterested in Chinese culture and the Chinatown-dwelling Chinese to be insular and backward. She discovers love in a fellow exile: Yung Hsien-kung, the heir of a Shanghai textile fortune who shares her sense of being in-between. When the war ends, Golden Bell, her new fiance, and her sister return to China to help rebuild their country, but this transition, too, proves difficult. When a new, Chinese-born movement sweeps in from the countryside, bringing Communism and the Cultural Revolution, Golden Bell’s connections to tradition and family are tested even further. As Silver Bell wonders early in the novel: “With all the wars, who is Chinese anymore?” A sequel of sorts to A Concubine for the Family, this novel further analyzes China’s tumultuous shifts in the 20th century through the lens of one family. The writing is frequently striking, though the author’s attempts to teach the reader sometimes result in awkwardly expositional dialogue (“I’m just so angry that even though both China and Japan fought with the allies in World War I, the Paris Peace Conference awarded the German Concession in our Northeast to Japan”). Even so, the trials of Golden Bell and her family are compelling and, at times, heart-wrenching and leave the reader with a new perception of the forces that shaped modern China.

An absorbing exploration of mid-20th-century China through the story of a fractured family.

Publisher: Tats Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


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