Bury What We Cannot Take

286p. Little A. Mar. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781542049702; pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781542049719.
When San San's 12-year-old brother Ah Liam, who is committed to the Communist Party, tells the authorities that he saw his grandmother smashing a portrait of Chairman Mao, he, his mother, and his grandmother must flee China for Hong Kong, leaving San San behind. The once pampered nine-year-old attempts to survive on the streets and avoid capture by the authorities, all while trying to rejoin her family. Meanwhile, everyone in her family has their own story. San San's father, who crossed the border alone to Hong Kong six years earlier, adjusts to his family's arrival. His precarious finances and pregnant mistress complicate their reunion. San San's mother desperately tries one outrageous plan after another to rescue San San, while Ah Liam clings to his revolutionary ideals. With most of the focus on San San and her mother, the other plot lines, especially that of Ah Liam, don't sufficiently develop, leaving their resolutions unearned, and some key action is glossed over. However, Chen's brisk pacing and eye for minor details make this a compelling narrative. Short chapters with emotional weight and a tense adventure lead to a page-turning read that will appeal to readers who shy away from historical fiction.
VERDICT Best suited for public libraries—an additional purchase for most school collections.

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