Author: Emily XR Pan
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but her parents were)
I have visited: NO
This is my 56th book for the year
I listened to this book as an audiobook. I think that was the perfect way for this particular book - it really brought the story alive.
This is the story of Leigh Sanders. Her mother has died from suicide and now Leigh is lost. One day, she sees a bird, and she is sure it is her mother. Her father, unsure what to do now that his wife is gone and his daughter seems lost, takes Leigh to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. Leigh feels this will give her a chance to find her mother and speak to her grandmother. She discovers that her grandparents speak very little English, and that the relationship between her parents and them is strained.
Her dad finds he cannot stay in Taiwan, but feels Leigh should stay. Leigh is determined to find her mother and chases after her memories in all corners of Tiawan. She meets a young girl, Phong, who helps her translate with her grandparents and also find what Leigh is looking for - closure.
The story goes back and forth between Leigh in Taiwan, and the recent past of her time in the United States. Leigh is an artist. She has submitted a portfolio to a special program for talented high school students, but her father was not pleased. He wants Leigh to concentrate on something "real" That art is just a past time. But for Leigh it is everthing.
She has a best friend, Axel, who she is secretly in love with. Axel is whom she leaned on when her mother died, but an awkward situation before she left for Taiwan is making it difficult for her to reach out to him while she is gone.
With the flash back parts of this book, we discover more about Leigh's family and her relationship with her mom and her grandparents and what lead to her eventual suicide.
In the end, Leigh finds what she is looking for, but not in the way she imagined. She is now able to leave Taiwan and move forward. Through a tale of magical realism, Leigh and her family are brought to life.
This book was excellent. It is going to the top of my list for this year. Just incredible. The story was well told, and the writing was beautiful. I was drawn to the characters and even though magical realism is usually not my favorite but this book blew me away. The author did a good job of mixing in Leigh's past and present and mixing in the magic elements with true to life problems that many people face when a loved one dies.
There is a lesson in this story, of course. She talks a lot about depression, especially in the end, about how important it is to listen to the people in our lives and to pay attention to signs when we think someone might be in trouble.
You need to read this one. Or listen to it. I did find that this book was well told with a voice attached to the characters.
"The purpose of memory is to remind us how to live"