... far-reaching and impactful ... Flipping back and forth in time from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, it demonstrates just how deeply circumstances beyond one’s control can shape a person’s or family’s existence and make — or break — their resolve to move forward. For the most part, Tang pulls it off ... the all-too-brief scenes detailing Yitian and Hanwen’s loaded reunion, while entertaining and necessary for illustrating how different the childhood friends’ lives turned out, don’t do much except keep the plot chugging merrily along...Instead, it’s Tang’s vibrant, stirring descriptions of Communist China during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath that grip, transport and beguile ... The sections involving Yitian’s complicated family life, particularly the tender and well-paced story of Yitian’s happy-go-lucky older brother Yishou’s scheme to sign Yitian up for the gaokao against their father’s wishes — and the tragedy that befalls Yishou as a result — are to be savored ... has its minor hiccups. Tang ties up every storyline so thoroughly toward the end, for example, that very little is left to the imagination. While some readers might find this approach appealing, it made me wonder how the book might’ve landed if just a few things on said map could’ve remained missing ... Despite these nitpicks, Tang’s prose is polished and consistently engaging for a first-timer, and the dominant narrative — one loosely based on a story at the center of her own family’s past — is wholehearted and sensitively drawn. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
... splendid ... At times, A Map for the Missing brings to mind George Orwell's 1984, though unlike that novel's dystopian England (called Airstrip One), the chilling and deeply sad China depicted here is real ... Along with Yitian, Hanwen and Yitian's parents, Tang brings additional secondary characters to life, such Yitian's beloved, broken grandfather and the unhappy girls who labor on the farm with Hanwen. The novel's many teachers, police officers, clerks, shopkeepers and other bureaucrats are individuals and never interchangeable ... It's astonishing that A Map for the Missing is Tang's debut novel. This 400-page book, whose protagonist navigates a purgatory of twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends, is gripping from its first page to its last.