Title: A Thread of Sky
Author: Deanna Fei
Release Date: April 1, 2010
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Irene Shen is bereft and angry at the loss of her husband; after all, he was killed in an accident shortly after announcing he was leaving her. In an effort to reconnect with her family, Irene convinces her three daughters, sister, and mother to accompany her on a trip around China, but what she doesn’t realize is that her daughters Nora, Kay, and Sophie are dealing with personal difficulties of their own and this trip might just give them a chance to sort out their messy lives.
A Thread of Sky is a novel about a family of Chinese-American women, each dealing with their own personal crisis. Fei takes the reader into each of their lives, making these characters come to life for the reader. None of these women are perfect; indeed, they can be frustrating at times as they make mistakes and errors in judgment, but they are realistic. It’s impressive that Fei, as a debut author, made her characters distinctive enough such that the reader can remember their stories and tell them apart.
It’s clear that in A Thread of Sky, each of these women is searching for something. It’s interesting to see how connecting with the place of their roots, China, affects each of them. Fei writes with vivid descriptions, bringing each of these places to life in the reader’s mind. But the more interesting aspect is the emotional reaction of each of these characters to what they see and hear. It’s so interesting to see how the trip changes each of them and how they are affected by returning to the place of their ancestors.
For the most part, I did like the characters in A Thread of Sky. As mentioned previously, they could be annoying at times, but their realism helped with that quite a bit. However, I was never emotionally invested in any of them. While Fei drew me in with great writing and storytelling, her characters never really packed that emotional punch. That’s not to say that they weren’t well developed, because they were. I just never felt emotionally involved in their journeys, nor did I feel that pull to read the novel in order to make sure everything would turn out okay for them.
Despite the lack of emotional involvement, I still enjoyed A Thread of Sky. I was very impressed with how much care Fei took with her characters, and though there was a certain feeling of detachment through the novel, it was still interesting to read. If you’re looking for a book club pick that’s now in paperback, this would be a choice, as there are many issues in it that will provoke discussion.