PETALS FROM THE SKY, BY MINGMEI YIP
This one was recommended to me by my cousin. I'm not sure why.
Synopsis: Meng Ning, a thirty-year-old woman from Hong Kong, is determined to become a Buddhist nun. During a retreat, a fire breaks out in the temple and her life is saved by an American doctor. She falls in love with him, and questions her previous decision.
Overall enjoyment: To sum up this entire review in one word: nope. I don't think there was anything at all in this book that I liked. I did actually read it from cover to cover, but it was a chore.
Plot: Nothing happens, then stuff happens haphazardly, then those things are abandoned, then more things happen but they're so sudden and unexpected they could almost be considered bizarre. She goes on about so many things that have nothing at all do to with the story, it feels like she's trying to fill up her word quota.
Characters: None of them are likable. All the Western people suffer from acute yellow fever. And their personalities are very inconsistent; she describes them as having a particular personality trait in one paragraph and then contradicts herself completely in the next. The characterization is very confusing, too, with all the people reacting in ways that are completely baffling. They will over-react and have almost a nervous breakdown over the most trivial things, and then be completely serene about disasters happening to them. And they will tell each other their complete life stories at the smallest provocation, even after making sure everyone understands that they don't open up to anybody ever.
World/setting: I suppose this was Hong Kong in the 90s? I'm not sure, to be honest. The time frame is all over the place.
Writing style: It's very truncated and feels strange. But this, at least, I suppose must be because English is not her first language. Still, it's very unpleasant to read.
Representation: It is a story about a Chinese (Taiwanese?) girl, in Hong Kong. Still, the representation is remarkably bad. The Chinese and Taiwanese people are portrayed as being ignorant and stereotypical, much less interesting than the Western characters.
Political correctness: Ugh. The love story is almost as bad as 50 Shades of Gray, with Michael being just as controlling, manipulative and emotionally abusive. He has a very severe case of yellow fever. He asks Meng Ning to marry him after knowing her for three days (I think); and they are, respectively, 38 and 30, so these are not a couple of horny teenagers overloaded with puberty hormones. There is so much slut-shaming and "the true role of a woman is to marry and have children; that's the only way she'll be happy" permeating those pages I wanted to gag. Also, very weirdly, in spite of the fact that all of the Western characters objectify Meng Ning, dismiss her, and treat her very cruelly, there's much more discussion about the prejudice Western people suffer in China than the other way around.
This was a waste of time. I don't know how much of my dislike is due to cultural shock, and how much is due to bad writing. Mingmei Yip is actually Chinese, so it would be only natural for her to have a different world view than mine. But it was just so bad to read I had to stop myself from skipping pages to finish the book faster. I hope the next one is better.
Up next: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender