THE ODYSSEY OF A MANCHURIAN by Belle Yang

THE ODYSSEY OF A MANCHURIAN

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A continuation of the story begun in Yang's unique chronicle of her father's boyhood in China during the 1930s and '40s, Baba: A Return to China Upon My Father's Shoulders (1994). In this volume, now a strong-willed 17-year-old, Baba leaves the family home in Manchuria in search of a new life. WW II has recently ended, and the nation is in turmoil. Trusting neither the Communists nor the Nationalists, he makes his way warily through a tumultuous countryside. He watches as the Communists open fire on a group of students and witnesses paranoid eruptions of violence in the villages. Yet he also encounters kindness and is sheltered early on in a monastery where an old abbott tries to teach him detachment: ``If one . . . sees the world of appearances as transitory, one will transcend the pain, the pain of restless longing and discontent; only then will one be released from the endless cycles of suffering.'' But Baba wants to experience the world, and eventually he ends up in Taiwan teaching Mandarin and hygiene to an unpolished, isolated tribe distinguished by their tattooed faces. Shortly afterward he meets his wife-to-be. It isn't the stylistic merit of Yang's prose (which sometimes has a clichÇd, stilted sound) that makes her books so appealing, but rather the sense of an odyssey undertaken and of wonderful things revealed. Baba's fascination with life, his desire to learn, sustain him in the face of violence and treachery. The 20 colorful, elegiac paintings by Yang that accompany the text, populated by bald smiling baby heads and animals, convey the same sense of imminent magic and of fluid, changeable life. Yang's work has the feel of oral history and folk narrative commingled and begs to be read aloud. A talented, highly original blend of vivid family history and art. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-15-100175-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1996




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