“An elegant and refined story of families, wartime, and the mystique of memory” but no wiki page

As promised, a review of The Distant Land of My Father.

Someone, somewhere in the City of Palo Alto deemed The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell to be a good choice for the entire city to read. I’d like to meet this someone.

Actually, after googling it, I discovered it was NOT in fact someone in Palo Alto (my apologies), but some committee at a group called Silicon Valley Reads, and it is described as

“The debut novel of a Cupertino author that tells the story of betrayal and reconciliation spanning several years across two continents has been selected for Silicon Valley Reads 2008.”

I am not impressed. So the author lives in Cupertino. Does that mean that if I write/publish a book they’ll sent out hundreds of copies? Somehow, I am skeptical.

The Distant Land of My Father was part toned down King Rat, part not-quite chick lit-coming of age in the guise of a fictitious memoir. It comes complete with a “reading guide” which echo the questions asked by English teachers on essay tests, for example:

“Q> What specific capabilities make Genevieve “a master of adaptability” and self-transformation (249) How would you describe Joseph Schoene’s skills at adapting? What adaptations and self-transformations does each undertake? What incidents show most dramatically or most convincingly the reasons, circumstances, and consequences-and the limitations-of their adaptive powers? How and why do others undergo transformations? With what results?”

Seriously, unless you’re being graded on it who asks/answers questions like that? I am also curious to know what sort of research she did before writing Distant Land, Clavell spent time in a Japanese POW camp years before Ms. Caldwell had been born. While some reviewers praise

“The vivid evocation of Shanghai’s potent sights, sounds, and smells has all the excitement you could want. An elegant and refined story of families, wartime, and the mystique of memory.” — Kirkus Reviews

I am questioning what experiences she is drawing from. I am in no way implying books must be slightly autobiographical, I am just curious to what a woman born in Oklahoma knows about Shanghai. If she was writing about vampires I would be less skeptical, but Shanghai is a real place, and I am curious to know what inspired her to write such a “vivid evocation.”

I find prefer James Clavell, he has a Wikipedia page


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