I am someone who enjoys reading any kind of book (except romance) and so have read my share of nonfiction books over the years, and have enjoyed a lot of them. Unfortunately, Daughter of China by Meihong Xu and Larry Engelmann, was not one of those that I enjoyed.
I find that over time, with so many books I want to read, I am becoming more impatient. This might be an outrageous concept, but I want things to happen in books. I don’t want to be thinking I’m reading about one thing only to have some boring side story interjected and interrupt the flow. Unless some detail is pertinent to your story, I don’t care. I think this makes me a bit of a ruthless editor sometimes, but quite honestly sometimes I read a book and wish the author had a ruthless editor too.
So, the obligatory brief rundown of what this book was about. This is a memoir about Meihong, a member of the People’s Liberation Army of China who is asked to spy on an American teacher, and who finds herself falling in love with him. The book details her struggle with the authorities and ultimately her drive to leave China so they can be together. I thought I would enjoy reading this. I didn’t.
Yes, there were some heartfelt portions to the story, and yes, the struggle that she faced for freedoms we take for granted was conveyed.
Unless the weather is pertinent to your story, I don’t care that it was a cloudy day with a slight gust of wind. What I didn’t want to read was someone’s diary entries, and that was how reading this felt. There were disjointed thoughts interjecting the main story and it was annoying. There were jumps in time. I get the purpose of doing this in a narrative, and have read other books that do it, but they do it well. Here, it was just annoying. Most of the time I forgot what had happened in the first paragraph at the start of the chapter that lead to the flashback by the time I got to the end.
And the more I read on, the angrier and more impatient I got. It felt like I was listening to Grandpa Simpson tell the story. So you’re traveling across country to try and find an escape route from China. That should be exciting to read about and make the reader anxious for the outcome. I don’t give a toss that some people on the train were eating salted chicken. What did that have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing, get to the point!
I read this book for my work book club, and I know there have been mixed feelings about it throughout the group, so I’m sure it will make for some interesting discussion at our next meeting. I even know of one person who cried in some parts she found moving. Me? I just cry that I even read this book.
Daughter of China by Meihong Xu and Larry Engelmann – 1 out of 5 stars.