In the past, Jialing’s mother had always come back, but this time it was different. Jialing waited patiently for several days in their home in the western residence, but when it finally becomes clear that her mother would not be returning, Jialing ventures out into the central residence. There Jialing meets Anjuin, the daughter of the Yang family, who own the three courtyard homes in Shanghai. Taken in by Anjuin’s grandmother, the family’s matriarch as a bond servant, Jialing begins a new life struggling to fit into Chinese society as a zazhong: an Eurasian.
Chang’s latest evocative historical novel is set in the early 20th century, and it effortlessly transports readers to China as it attempts to make the transition from centuries of imperial rule to a modern republic. The author skillfully incorporates a generous measure of Chinese fantasy and myth into the storyline as Jialing finds her life and fate tied up with that of the Fox spirit, who has lived in the courtyard for centuries, but readers will find it all works beautifully within the context of a story that deftly explores the topics of love, family, friendship, honor, and duty. If you loved Amy Tan’s One Hundred Secret Senses or Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, you will definitely fall under the spell of this equally mesmerizing novel.