Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself.
... engrossing, eventful ... Zhang has trained her gaze on an area of American history that has gone largely unnoticed in westerns, even revisionist ones: the Chinese immigrants who built railroads and worked in mines — only to be met with racist persecution when they tried to assimilate into American life ... Zhang’s descriptive prose is an arresting combination of earthy and lyric ... moves with nimble economy through Daiyu’s dislocations while poignantly rendering her struggle to maintain a coherent sense of self ... While psychologically sound, these projections at times feel overworked; the original story of Lin Daiyu, told briefly in the novel’s early pages, lacks sufficient potency to bear so much narrative weight ... Throughout the novel, Zhang adopts a stylistic tic of avoiding contractions. The inevitable formality of this device is offset by her exuberant prose, but it hampers her dialogue with a generic stiffness that undercuts the variety and individuality of speakers ... The resonance and immediacy of these barbarous 19th-century events are testament to Zhang’s storytelling powers, and should stand as a warning to all of us.
... beautifully-written if haunting ... While Zhang is not the first Chinese-American writer to tackle the United States’s shameful treatment of Chinese, her book certainly stands among the most memorable of these. With violence against Asian Americans at a recent all-time high, this lesson of the brutality inflicted on Chinese residents who were only trying to help build the United States into a more efficient and prosperous country could not be more timely.
... spirited ... The descriptions of this trip are terrifying. Equally as visceral are Zhang’s depictions of brothel life: the food, the feel of the rooms, the rivalries and friendships of the prostitutes, the subterfuges and cruel economics that make these places possible. In these moments, the author’s skill for sensory detail shine ... Though Daiyu’s story is shaped by true historical inequities, Four Treasures of the Sky comes to life through her journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance.