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Decent read and I learned a bit.

Green Island - Shawna Yang Ryan

I was excited for this book after hearing about it from somewhere that I can't remember as usual. However, I was fascinated about a story that takes place in Taiwan during a tumultuous time period that I know very little about. I can't recall if I've ever read a book that takes place in Taiwan for a good chunk of the book so it seemed like an interesting read.


The unnamed narrator is born right before her father is taken away and imprisoned for more than a decades. In the meantime, the narrator's family copes by soldiering on, living life after fleeing their home. Once the narrator's father is released, the family sees he is a broken man, tortured and with the memories of unspeakable things. Time passes, the narrator grows up, gets married and moves to the US, hopefully for a better life. Unfortunately with these types of books, she cannot fully flee her past and she is faced with a situation as old ghosts come to haunt her and her family.


The first half or so of the book was fascinating. Reading up on Taiwan in this time period was really interesting and it was definitely educational. That said, the book is a bit too long/needed better editing. The story was really good but sometimes the author is too detailed and the story is just a bit too slow-going at times. While the historical setting was really great, once the narrator moves to the US the book really begins to decline. I found the narrator's birth family fascinating--I just didn't care as much for her husband and children.


I found the book a bit unsatisfying as a whole. The beginning was interesting but a review on Goodreads talks about how it apparently took 14 years for the author to research and publish this. It feels like it, without the heavy hand of a good editor to really sort out what should have stayed and what should have been left. A book that came to mind after reading this was 'The Headmaster's Wager', which focused on the conflict solely before, during and after the Vietnam War. I think this book might have been stronger if the author had stayed in Taiwan. That the narrator couldn't quite escape her past in the US was of course very interesting, but I'm not sure it fully worked.


That said, it was worth the read and I'd certainly be interested in other books by the author. This might be best for a snowy weekend/weeks or a long period of time (like recuperating from an injury). Made for a good borrow from the library.