... captivates readers from the very first sentence ... part of the beauty of the plot and the careful creation of Tam's character is how we see her grow and come into her own in spite of --- or perhaps because of --- the trauma she has endured ... From the food to the celebrations, from superstitions to the treatment of orphans, be prepared to immerse yourself in a different culture as you navigate these pages. You'll love every minute of it.
Readers may tire of Tam’s self-absorption, Mia’s spite, Angela’s five-year-old precocity, and the insistent coincidence of homicidal truck drivers. Taiwan-born Butler’s sophomore titl is yet another tangled melodrama, albeit with enough nods to Very Important Issues (family dysfunction, Taiwan-China divide, gender inequity, orphanage horrors) to push it toward literary fiction . . . lite.
Butler captivates with a well-crafted tale of disaster and revelations ... Butler keeps the twists coming, plowing through the story at breakneck speed. She perfectly portrays Tam’s growing sense of ambivalence about the loss of her husband, her responsibility to Angela, and her desire to adopt, and skillfully adds depth to complicated characters such as Mia. Readers will devour this engaging family saga.
The cause of the rift is withheld until roughly midway through the novel in an unnecessary ploy to build suspense. Readers will guess early on that Tony and Mia’s relations aren’t exactly familial, especially since Mia’s perspective, in flashbacks, alternates with Tam’s ... This unduly tortuous plot then turns to the most compelling portion of the novel—scenes from a Chinese orphanage where Tony’s dementia-afflicted elderly mother, Xing Xing, once played a pivotal role, whence Tony’s decision to adopt from that same orphanage. How the China-Taiwan conflict plays out on the family level is touched on but underdeveloped ... A kindly neighbor’s dachshund shelter provides comic relief and is more engaging than a hackneyed romance subplot ... Weighty subject matter is undermined by a melodramatic, unfocused treatment.