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Literature and Fiction Literary
It’s 1958, and Hazel’s peaceful world has been upended by
the tragic death of her husband. It’s harvest time and
with two small children and a farm to manage on her own,
this young mother is determined to keep her land and
family intact. As she grows closer to the neighboring
Hughes family, she realizes the tradeoff for some freedoms
is more precious than she expected.
In 1890, we see Hazel’s young mother, Louisa, recently
married and relocated to Illinois to what will become her
family’s farm. Life in the country is dictated by seasons,
so too is Louisa ruled by her “weathers” of good and bad
spells. What keeps her grounded is corresponding with her
sister, Addie, a Christian missionary in China. The same
adventurous spirit that brought Addie to China with her
new husband now compels her to leave again. However, with
the Boxer Rebellion underway, and violence erupting
between Chinese and their unwelcome Christian intruders,
Addie’s life takes a mysterious and haunting turn strongly
felt by her sister, Louisa, back home.
At the end of the twentieth century, Juanlan returns to
her parents’ home in Heng’an after college. With her
father falling ill, a new highway being built, and her
sister-in-law soon to give birth, Juanlan feels frozen in
place, though everyone and everything seem to be rapidly
changing. In search for an outlet for the live wire, a
little burning blue coil she feels buried inside, she
starts up a love affair with a high-ranking government
From rural Illinois to the far reaches of China, these
four women are interconnected by actions, consequence, and
spirit, each brilliantly displaying the fleeting intensity
of youth, the obligation of family, and the dramatic
consequence of charting their own destiny. A vibrant story
of compassion and discovery set against a century of
complicated relations between China and America.
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