Against the backdrop of early Maoist China, this captivating and emotional tale follows a brother, a sister, a father, and a mother as they grapple with their agonizing decision, its far-reaching consequences, and their hope for redemption.
Chen draws a lovable protagonist in San San, and her deft use of suspense makes the novel a quick and satisfying read. Other characters are less successful, especially Ah Liam and his father, whose plotlines fall to the background and are largely unresolved. Chen has drawn an engaging, if uneven, portrait of China in the late 1950s during the rise of Maoism.
Bury What We Cannot Take is evocative, engrossing, beautiful, frightening and illuminating. The only flaws I could find are that it was also a bit unbelievable and that it scratches only the surface of issues and characters that could have used a fuller exploration. That said, I would still recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good read. It packs a powerful punch into a relatively small package.
Chen’s book is an engaging account of the Ong family’s escape to freedom at the height of political oppression ... In Bury What We Cannot Take, the dialogue and historical details reflect her knowledge of Chinese culture and history, gained through both her upbringing and research ... Though we the reader may yearn for a richer political and social landscape and a more convincing ending in Chen’s book, it provides a rare glimpse into the little-documented history of such people during Mao’s era.