I’m sharing an extract from Where Waters Meet by Zhang Ling today. This is one I really like the sound of and plan to read at some point soon. It will be published by Amazon Crossing on 1st May 2023. Thanks to Katya at FMcM Associates for sending me a copy.
About the book
There was rarely a time when Phoenix Yuan-Whyller’s mother, Rain, didn’t live with her. Now at the age of eighty-three, Rain’s unexpected death ushers in a heartrending separation.
Struggling with the loss, Phoenix comes across her mother’s suitcase—a memory box Rain had brought from home. Inside, Phoenix finds two old photographs and a decorative bottle holding a crystallized powder. Her auntie Mei tells her these missing pieces of her mother’s early life can only be explained when they meet, and so, clutching her mother’s ashes, Phoenix boards a plane for China. What at first seems like a daughter’s quest to uncover a mother’s secrets becomes a startling journey of self-discovery.
Told across decades and continents, Zhang Ling’s exquisite novel is a tale of extraordinary courage and survival. It illuminates the resilience of humanity, the brutalities of life, the secrets we keep and those we share, and the driving forces it takes to survive.
Read an extract from the beginning of the book
A DEATH, A MEMORY BOX, AND AN OYSTER WITH A PEARL
George Whyller’s mother-in-law, Rain Yuan, died ten days ago, unexpectedly.
Sure, she had been sick for a while: renal infection, diabetes, a stomach ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, and the towering Alzheimer’s. But none of these things could cause one to kick the bucket so suddenly. A heart attack, they said. But she had always had a perfect heart. Well, when one gets to her age, the organs don’t give you much of a warning. Her age? For heaven’s sake, she was only eighty-three. There are parts of the world where people live to be a hundred and twenty—she was a spring chicken.
Rain was not her real name. No one in their right mind would call herself Rain unless she was a rock star or the mother of Snow White (the real one, not the stepmother). Her legal name, as recorded in her passport, was Chunyu Yuan, Chunyu meaning “spring rain” in Chinese.
When a man marries a Chinese woman, he marries the whole family. Luckily for George, the family of his wife, Phoenix, had been trimmed, through death, disappearance, and estrangement, to only a mother and an aunt, with the aunt living thousands of miles away in Shanghai and thus hardly a bother.
What remained of that family, namely Phoenix and her widowed mother, had been close. Close was not even the word. For most of their lives, other than a few necessary periods, Phoenix and Rain had always lived together, prior to Rain’s nursing-home days, of course. Phoenix brought her mother into her marriage, like an inseparable conjoined twin. Rain’s passing unhinged Phoenix and the worst part of it was she didn’t know she was a wretched mess.
George had left work a little early today. He and Phoenix planned to have an early dinner and then drive together to Pinewoods, the nursing home where Rain had died, to pick up Rain’s stuff before the reception closed at eight.
It was 4:09 p.m., April 20, 2011.
Southbound along Birchmount Road, the traffic was quite smooth, something rarely seen in a city like Toronto at this hour of the day.
George practically sailed through and got home sooner than expected.
Setting his briefcase on the hardwood floor, he sat down on the footstool by the door, starting, automatically, to remove his leather shoes, replacing them with slippers made of cheap plastic. It was a habit Rain had pushed upon him when he married Phoenix six years ago. A habit, among others, that he had protested against half-heartedly for a while before giving up. Rain was a tireless buffing machine, smoothing out all the bumps where she treaded, by patience, or by sheer maternal force.
Walking towards the living room, he suddenly halted, noticing Phoenix standing in front of the bay window. He hadn’t expected to see her for another hour at least. Phoenix was an ESL teacher in an immigration settlement center. She had two afternoon classes on Wednesdays. By the time she finished teaching and hopped on the subway, then switched to a bus and walked a block to reach home, it was usually around 6:15 p.m
If you like the sound of this book, you can pre-order a copy here: Where Waters Meet
About the Author
Zhang Ling is the award-winning author of multiple novels, including A Single Swallow and Aftershock, which was adapted into China’s first IMAX movie with unprecedented box-office success. Born in China, she moved to Canada in 1986 and began to write and publish fiction in Chinese while working as a clinical audiologist. Where Waters Meet is her first novel written in English.
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