A Hundred Flowers - Gail Tsukiyama I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

In 1957 Chairman Mao issued an order for all the intellectuals and artists in the community to come forward so that China could become a stronger country. "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." While this was seen as cautious good news, Sheng was arrested for sending a letter speaking out against the Communist Party and was sent to a reeducation facility. He leaves behind his professor father, Wei, his herb healer wife, Kai Ying, and his young son, Tao. On top of the tragedy of losing Sheng, and not knowing if he lives or dies, Tao climbs a tree one morning and falls, breaking his leg. A historical fiction novel that takes place in China in 1958, A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama, is really just about an average family over the course of five months. Yes, shit happens, and it sucks, but it is a very average sort of family.

My biggest problem with this novel is that even though each chapter is told about a different family member, the voice stays the same. I think this would have been better served if each chapter were told in that family member's voice, rather than in the narrator's voice. It made the story very monotone.


The most interesting character was the 15 year old, homeless, pregnant girl. It isn't that her character was more compelling than the family, it was simply because she had the most unique story of all of the characters, because she wasn't a part of the family. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been told from her perspective, first and foremost and the rest of the family's secondarily, rather than vice versa.

All that being said, once the story picked up, it flew. It was easy to read because the words flowed together nicely. I was able to read the second half of this book in one sitting, once I knew and began to care about the characters. I wanted to see Tao walk without a limp and I wanted Kai Ying to find an apprentice and a daughter in the young pregnant girl. Somehow, Tsukiyama managed to make a horribly depressing and difficult time for a family hopeful.

That's what I took away from this book that I liked. hope. For all the time that the characters spent contemplating on the lack of hope for their family, for China, for the baby, for the pregnant girl, by the end of the book the theme had turned to hope. Who doesn't need a little hope in their lives?