Under Fishbone Clouds
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Under Fishbone Clouds is a universal love story, a family saga, and a journey through Chinese history, myth, and culture. Following a young Chinese couple as their love grows, and is tested, during Mao's Cultural Revolution, this elegant debut novel provides a rare and personal glimpse into the birth modern China.
When the Kitchen God is challenged by the Jade Emperor to fathom the workings of the human heart, he chooses to follow the life of Jinyi and his wife Yuying, from their blossoming love until their old age, in hope of finding an answer. The Kitchen God watches as the new government strictures split their family in two, living inside their hearts as they they endure the loss of two children, homesickness, and isolation, all while keeping alive a love that survives famine, forced labor, and even death. Weaving together the story of their life with China’s recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.
Mingmei’s like. She’s always fluttery, strange. She clings to her thoughts, and keeps them in, letting them twist her. We told her that with Mao Zedong Thought, anything is possible. She pretends to agree, but it’s clear that she hasn’t given up her bourgeois past.’ She seemed to be saying all of this for Liqui’s benefit, pointedly listing the criticisms with an upturned nose, as if she could smell each word escaping her mouth. There were grunts of agreement, though Liqui was not quite sure
the fire started to flitter down and the baby settled noisily in the covered crib, they curled up, resisting everything but each other. Their sex was sweaty, silent, quick. In the half-light of red embers in which they drifted to sleep, they did not notice that the baby was unusually quiet. But when stray comets of dew began to blink across the grass, he coughed and howled, and they woke, their lungs aching as though birds were trying to fly free of their chests. By noon the river was in sight
not have to know, he thought. However, despite their best efforts, sending messages with everyone passing by and even sounding out the crowds at the market, the famous doctor could not be found. He had not been seen, apparently, since the civil war began. Yuying was soon up and wandering through the rows again; yet she would often stop and spend hours studying the points where the rayed corners of the fields dipped into the haze and smudge of the horizon, her mind elsewhere. She felt closer to
with a dwindling flock, undoubtedly heading the same way. ‘What’s in that bag?’ Jinyi asked, looking at his young wife more closely now that it was light. Hauled over both their backs were dirty sheets knotted to hold as many sweet potatoes as possible, but Yuying also had a smaller, brighter pouch, a remnant of their journey from Fushun, tied across a shoulder. ‘Things I’ve made.’ ‘What things?’ ‘Hats, bibs, nappies, socks, vests. You know. Embroidered. You’ve seen them.’ ‘No, we packed
those divine beings whose beds are the silky underside of summer clouds, back in the days when the names of us gods and goddesses hadn’t yet been dragged through the mud. She was tall and slender, her charcoal mane sloping down to her pale toes, and, let me tell you, the rumours were true: she was the most beautiful woman who ever drew breath. Her eyes looked as though they had been formed from shards of arctic ice. Pouting and cold, she possessed that singular kind of heart-stopping, double-take