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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  515 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Spanning seven decades, this arresting debut novel tells the story of a love triangle within a distinguished family. In 1931, abandoned after their mother's suicide, the young Junan and her sister, Yinan, make a pact never to leave each other. The two girls are inseparable- until Junan enters into an arranged marriage and makes the mistake of falling in love with her soldi ...more
Published August 4th 2005 by Phoenix (first published 2004)
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Chang handles the slippery theme of loyalty when personal desire clashes with commitments to family, culture, or nation. Her characters are real in that they fail to resolve the betrayals they generate, and yet they each succeed in following their individual choices, each paying a heavy price. In spite of personal infidelities along with the disruptions of war and political upheaval that disperses the family over five generations into China, Taiwan, and America, the family holds together by thin ...more
Very few novels have the power to deeply transform the reader. Many books can spark your imagination or provide a new insight on something, but rarely is the reader profoundly affected by the words on the page. Inheritance happens to be one of these exceptional novels with the power to change the reader.

After finishing Inheritance, I am forced to reflect inward on my own family situation; one that is just as imperfect as the Wang/Li family. Broken families are common, but finding a way to fix o
Marlaina Connelly
I have read a great deal of these types of books, and I found this book calling for me. An Inheritance? with a female asian on the cover? Something different than the status quo for historical fiction about Chinese pre-revoluntary woman? Nope. Same as old as time, once again we deal with a family that has 2 daughters, one of which is the perfect one and the other one is kind of odd, wants to learn and never to marry. Hey what about the father being a drunk/gambler and mother unhappy? Well this s ...more
4 and a half stars for this book. I find it fascinating learning about cultures other than my own. The relationship between the two sisters, born in China, during a time when being born female was NOT favored. Their lives, their relationships with one another and others made for fascinating reading.
Chris Xu
I love most of Sam's short story collection Hunger but for the last one pipa's story. Now it goes the same with this debut novel. I couldnt appreciate stories of historical theme/set in old china from chinese american writers. They reads identical(for me). Just like eating your first sushi and the second one is always not as tasty. I believe her talents are better manifested in her other stories centered on Chinese diaspora in America. Writing historical themes is more like a research which must ...more
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I'm strangely fascinated with Chinese history, and I generally find family sagas compelling. I had never heard of Lan Samantha Chang, but I'm glad I picked this book on a whim; it didn't disappoint.

Set in the backdrop of political unrest and spanning three generations, Inheritance details the struggle between love and hate in a time of turmoil. Chang's characters are beautifully constructed, particularly the author's mother, Junan, who I could relate to entirely too well.

Despite the memorable c
Cynthia Haggard
Lan Samantha Chang is a well-regarded writer who is also the director of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her first novel INHERITANCE is the story of one family’s journey as they navigate the vicissitudes of 20th-century China, from the rule of the Emperors, through the first republic, to the second world war, to exile and communism.

The story centers around two sisters, one fierce and strong who represents China, and the other quiet and fey, who represents Taiwan. As the story goes along, it graduall
Spanning 4 generations of a Chinese family, beginning before World War II in China and ending in present in the United States, this work is about mother/daughter relationships. A real strength of the work is the understanding one gains of the culture of the family, in particular those traditions which are foreign to our way of thinking: the power of the male and in particular the need for a male child. Although the women in this narrative are all smart and strong, their backs are broken because ...more
I did not go in expecting to like this book. I often find immigrant fiction maudlin and stifling in its disappointment with America or its overwhelming optimism toward American culture.

So I was very surprised to find myself so captivated by Chang’s story (non-autobiographical). She writes with clarity, detail and poignancy. She informs the reader of the political climate of China during the war and Communist revolution without being preachy and mostly without taking sides. She sets up no expecta
The prose is well-done, although I didn't enjoy the inconsistent point of view (is the daughter retelling the story? then why is she referring to herself in third person?) and most of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. I do like the book's portrayal of war and the old Chinese family dynamic.
As usual I loved the historical content of the book which was brilliantly intertwiined with the story of a wealthy Chinese family spread over seven generations. It is set prior to the Japanese occupation through to the establishment of the Communist era.The story is told in an understated way making it,s impact even greater.We get a wonderful insight into the workings of the Chinese mind which enables us to relate to the characters in a sympathetic way. The tension between the well drawn charac ...more
I'm usually allergic to Family Sagas, but I liked this one. The writing is crisp, lyric and evocative without being overwrought, and I found the characters very compelling. Although the story unfolds in tandem with historical events––the crisis point of the family narrative is entangled with the crisis of World War II––the history never overwhelms the tale-telling. It never becomes a demonstration of What It Was Like to live through historical era x. This was a book that I sped through, eager to ...more
Junan and Yinan are sisters who swear always to be there for each other after their mother dies, until the night their father loses Junan in a gambling game to pay off his debts. Junan, in spite of her promises does fall in love with Li Ang, a soldier who is fighting the invading Japanese forces. This story follows the sisters and their family during a time of fear for everyone in China.
This was too much chick-lit for my liking and these family epic books never hold my interest for long. I didn
I feel like as I get older I am more able to relate to the hurt that the people in these kinds of books experience.. I guess it's just part of life. Every person's actions make sense, even though as a 3rd party I will them to change their mind, to be more patient or sympathetic or perceptive.. but I guess that's how we live.

Also made me really want to learn about Chinese/Taiwanese history.
It was a very engaging novel with interesting plot twists and carefully constructed characters. I felt connected to the characters and the author successfully managed to allow readers to empathise. The author's precise and believable writing brought out China's past impeccably. Her vivid description of the dire situations the Chinese were subjected to made the book a more interesting read as readers are further exposed to exquisite Chinese culture and tradition. This book was definitely a page t ...more
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): In preparation for a panel I will moderate at the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, I am reading Lan Samantha Chang’s first novel, Inheritance. While my reading could be considered “homework,” it’s homework that I don’t want to put down. The story of Junan and her younger sister, Yinan, opens in pre-revolution, 1930s China, as their mother, who has not borne her husband a son and worries he will take another wife, commits suicide. Chang’s quiet yet vivid p ...more
This was an interesting novel, set during the Sino-Japanese War and second Chinese Civil war, but I think that I found the setting more interesting than the plot. The characters all seemed like caricatures to me, and the author jumped back and forth between the first and third person, which I deeply dislike. Toward the end of the novel, the first person even starts slipping into the third person sections, so that the narrator is technically narrating all of it. I didn't like that device at all. ...more
Given that the author is the new director of the Iowa Writers Workshop, I was surprised that the story was told from only one perspective, much of it in third person, in strictly chronological order--nothing cutting edge about the style. And it's a familiar formula that follows 3 generations of women & the relationships between mothers & daughters & the women & their men. But it is a very compelling story set mostly in the years leading up to China's Communist Revolution. Once ag ...more
Through the lives of several generations the reader learns about the political turmoil and the cultural changes in China after the fall of the last dynasty. The story focuses on two sisters who end up loving the same man. One sister believes in the practicality of arranged marriages and shapes her life around becoming a respectable woman and wife, while the other sister believes in romance and fairy tale endings. The story is full of emotion, provides insight to cultural issues, and show the unc ...more
Sara Soukup
Beautifully written from several characters point of view.
Good writing but very slow
liked this much more than i thought i would upon starting. happily avoids annoying writing or amy tan cliche territory. chang's writing is subtle and complex without struggling to appear so. in fact, her writing is disarmingly easy to read, drawing you in. even though she plays around with point of view and the book had great flow. she did that show dont tell thing in terms of story beautifully while being relatively clear (my head wasn't even completely in the game) about the historical context ...more
Beautifully written! Inheritance can take many paths; these were explored through Ms. Chang's wonderful book.
This book is about two sisters in China, beginning when they are young girls in the 1930s, and ending in the present. I found it intriguing but sad - the family is dysfunctional over the course of generations and I found that heart-rending, despite the fact that it ended relatively neatly. It's quite well-written, and had the bonus side effect of informing me about the rise of Communism in China. I didn't previously know much about 20th century Chinese history.
The characters in Inheritance are extremely one dimentional, almost to the point of irritation. The author used the word "pride" or "proud" each and every single time she described the main character Junan. As a result, by the 200th time Chang described Junan as "proud" I FINALLY understood that her character flaws were due to the fact that she was too proud. Not a good read for people who dont enjoy obvious characters and repetative writing.
Sometimes it seems that all Chinese sagas are the same: generations of misery, mixed with some hoodoo that is difficult for modern American readers to comprehend. What makes Inheritance stand out? Character. Lan Samantha Chang really puts the reader in her heroines' shoes. You truly feel the conflict, the betrayal, the confusion, the undeniable love, the acceptance of fate. She writes without bullshit. In this genre, it doesn't get much better than that.
I'm not sure why this book didn't impress me more. It wasn't poorly written ( with the exception of two repeated descriptions-- the first of which was BEAUTIFUL the first time, but marred by the repetition. ). The historical placement and timespan of this family saga should have done it also. The main thing was the lack of a picture it created in my mind. It didn't take me away, even with her places that should have been full of description.
"My mother and my aunt had always been close, and even in their betrayal they drew together in a way that left out everyone else. The betrayal had made a phantom sister that could not be replaced by any other person. Through the years, they were unable to exorcise this ghost" (p. 293). Lan Samantha Chang introduces this wonderfully complex and compelling new type of ghost. I hope that she continues to explore it....
I'd actually give 3.5 stars. It was a very engaging read, about a time and place I know little about (China 1930s-1960s). The author developed a strong story of family bonds and family betrayal, set in a culture that has a great distinction of roles for men, women and children. One difficult part of this book for me was keeping track of all the characters and the significance of each one to the overall story.
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Lan Samantha Chang's fiction has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Story and The Best American Short Stories 1994 and 1996. Chang is the author of the award-winning books Hunger and Inheritance, and the novel All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. She is the recipient of the Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote fellowships at Stanford University. She also received, from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a Teaching ...more
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