Women of the Silk, was the debut novel written by Gail Tsukiyama, and first published in 1991. Ms. Tsukiyama is a new to me author.
Pei is one of the several Chinese daughters born to a poverty stricken fish farm family, dominated by the father. She is the outgoing and curious child, and according to the fortune teller that her father takes her to, she is the “non marrying” type. When another girl is born to the family (who dies soon after), Pei's father decides her fate. He arranges to sell her to a motherly sort of woman called Auntie Yee who runs a home for silk workers. By doing this Pei's family will get paid for her work in the factory.
Initially Pei is hysterical when she realizes that she has been left at this strange place by her father. Before long she adjusts to her new life and actually begins to thrive. Pei finds that she is treated with kindness, and she forms a special bond with another girl named Lin. Pei and the other girls live together, work together, earning money for their families, and they form strong bonds accepting the fact that they will never marry, but instead will retire to spinsterhood at the age of 40.
The effects of war with Japan eventually touch the lives of everyone, and there are some tragedies which occur as this book covers a 20 year time span. The author does a wonderful job with this coming of age story. The character of Pei was extremely well developed. I could feel the bond between the girls, as well as the emotional pain suffered by Pei. It was also interesting to learn about the silk process, and about China between 1919 and 1938. I plan to read more books by this author.
RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/19/09
WHERE FROM: My Stacks