Friday, November 29, 2013

Three Souls by Janie Chang

Cover image from HarperCollins

In the summer, I was out of town and missed the launch of the historical novel Three Souls (HarperCollins 2013) by Vancouver author Janie Chang.

When the story opens in the small Chinese city of Pingyu in 1935, Leiyin is dead. For reasons she can't understand, she's been detained between realms. Though this world remains visible, she cannot participate in it.

Her companions in exile are her yin soul (romantic), her yang soul (disapproving), and her hun soul (philosophical and far-seeing).

Leiyin looks back on her life and tries to understand why the afterlife is closed to her. For rebelling against her father's dictums, she was punished by being married off to a simple man from a small town. This crushed her hopes of both a university education and the love of the revolutioinary poet Hanchin, a communist she met at a political lecture her father had forbidden her to attend.

She is deeply unhappy about being married off, but over time, she comes to accept her situation and find joy in the family she does have, rather than the romantic love she dreamed of with Hanchin. But when he comes back into her life as a political fugitive, she is tempted into rash actions, then crushed by disillusionment when she learns she's been used. 

Amid the political turmoil of pre-revolutionary China, Leiyin's impulsive passions have put her loved ones at risk, and she must find a way to remedy this. Before she can leave the shadow world, she must look deep into her own heart and find forgiveness, generosity and redemption.

Meanwhile, between worlds with her three souls, Leiyin discovers that she can communicate with those who remain in the world she's had to leave behind. Difficult and frustrating though this is, she must find a way to complete her unfinished tasks.

Loosely based on family stories the author heard many times in childhood, this book is a great read. I couldn't put it down, and neither could friends who read it. Way to go, Janie!

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