Monday, June 9, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

Title: The Year She Left Us
Author: Kathryn Ma
Genre: Women's/Literary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: May 13/2014
Acquired:  Print copy provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the winner of the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Prize—comes the extraordinary, unexpected debut tale of three generations of Chinese-American women in a San Francisco family who must confront their past and carve out a future.

The Kong women are in crisis. A disastrous trip to visit her "home" orphanage in China has plunged eighteen-year-old Ari into a self-destructive spiral. Her adoptive mother, Charlie, a lawyer with a great heart, is desperate to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, Charlie must endure the prickly scrutiny of her beautiful, Bryn Mawr educated mother, Gran—who, as the daughter of a cultured Chinese doctor, came to America to survive Mao's Revolution—and her sister, Les, a brilliant judge with a penchant to rule over everyone's lives.

As they cope with Ari's journey of discovery and its aftermath, the Kong women will come face to face with the truths of their lives—four powerful intertwining stories of accomplishment, tenacity, secrets, loneliness, and love. Beautifully illuminating the bonds of family and blood, The Year She Left Us explores the promise and pain of adoption, the price of assimilation and achievement, the debt we owe to others, and what we owe ourselves.


This is the second book I've read, to date, that explores the valleys of the adoption process. As with the first, The Year She Left Us chose to display the darker, more "worst-case-scenario" route through life as an adopter, and an adopted child. This book left much to be desired, and I couldn't quite get a grasp on what felt like a genre mash up gone slightly array. While the quirky aspects appealed to my senses, the stream-of-consciousness narrative grew exhausting, and had me turning pages, if only to find out what happens next, as opposed to any real interest.

Told through the voices of four women, three bond by blood, one by name, The Year She Left Us was a moving, and at times, depressing, look into the world of families that choose to open their homes to a foreign child. I'll be honest, I would have loved to have learned that the author was writing this story with genuine knowledge of the content-that she herself was adopted, or has an adopted child. At times, the narrative just became too much of a push. Ari was a little too dramatic to warrant my understanding. In her defense, the author was clearly depicting an "extreme," but I found that I mostly enjoyed the story line existing outside of Ari's woes. I grew rather fond of her Gran, of her history, and family lineage, and without a doubt, her hilarious dialogue. I rushed passed pages until I got to a chapter that had "Gran" sprawled along the top.

In terms of setting, I found myself on familiar terrain. I haven't personally traveled to China, but know of many who have, and have been given the privilege, and pleasure, of viewing landscape, and landmark, photos of areas such as Guangzhou. It was easily another way for me to link myself to the narrative, especially when particular parts of the book caused my eyes to glaze over. By the end, I understood how The Year She Left Us could be seen as something both extremely powerful, and exceptionally dull. 

This is a book that won't appeal to many readers, but if you are able to connect with it on more than one level (which, unfortunately, I could not), The Year She Left Us has the potential to become your next favourite read. 

Recommended for fans of: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Cultural Fiction,  Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke,.


CLICK HERE to meet Kathryn on her About Me page!

Contact Links


Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Harper Collins for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour

1 comment:

  1. I love books with great settings! I feel like I'm traveling from the comfort of my armchair. :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour!


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