Mari, the adult, learns to stand on her own two feet when she doubts she can do so and struggles through loss and blame. An Ni, a pre-teen, has strength to survive all kinds of pain--both physical and emotional. Part of a street gang, she faces difficulties many of us can barely imagine, and never gives in to defeat. Mei, an even younger girl, despite the trauma she's been through, not only has the strength to carry on, but also to carry the other two emotionally and when An Ni needs help, Mei is there for her and shoulders responsibilities no little girl should.
They are so amazing and each one pulled on my heartstrings. We could all learn something from these heroines.
But something else I loved about this book....let me find the words. Okay, I thought at first from the blurb, that this would be a romance. Most blurbs tell you a little something about the heroine and then a little something about the hero and you know they'll get together in the end and live HEA, right?
I wondered how Ms. Bratt was going to go about this with the heroine being married.
Boy, was I surprised. First of all, it's not a romance. It's a story of amazing friendship--you could even call it life-saving friendship--between two people who have a common goal of doing right by two little girls. They don't know it, but they've been brought together for a reason, and together, they must also learn a few life lessons: don't blame yourself and let go of bitterness.
Through all this: Max's depression, Mari's shocking life changes, An Ni's pain and doubt, and Mei's struggle to keep it all together, we also learn about China and some of its culture--their funeral customs, the government's twisting of facts and manipulation of journalism, the tension foreigners face if they ask too many questions. More than one journalist had been detained or jailed and charged with illegal activity for simply interviewing everyday people.
I appreciate this. I recently watched a dance show called Shen Yun and the performers and their agenda made me aware that there are problems in China today, that it didn't stop with Mao's reign--I credit Ms. Bratt's stories for educating me on that as well.
With this tale taking place in the big city, I saw and felt the tension between the lines--people's reluctance to involve the authorities, the government trying to twist the trafficking facts, silencing Max when they could...
This story also reminded me more than once of all I have and take for granted.
It wasn't easy to watch people going by on their way to protective and loving homes as you scurried into a dark hole somewhere, searching for warmth never to be found.
And as odd as this will seem, after reading this, I vow to be a better tourist!
Most of the foreigners she dealt with got frustrated and short tempered when they couldn't be understood or things didn't go their way. She'd seen more than one stomp away, cursing to themselves that they'd ever come to China, reactions usually brought about after they'd become winded while walking along the wall, or when too many souvenir hawkers had pushed them past their limits. What some didn't understand was the difference between selling five postcard packets or none might mean the difference between feeding family that night or going hungry.
I also loved and appreciated the underground tunnel bits. Fascinating!
Long review short: This is probably Ms. Bratt's finest book to date and considering I loved every single one of the Scavenger Daughter stories thus far, that's a compliment. You'll smile, cry, chew your fingernails with worry, and walk away more educated and enlightened than when you first started.
"They do realize, don't they, that they wouldn't be here if not for some little girl that grew up to be their mother?"
I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review.