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The Fifth Book of Peace

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  274 ratings  ·  37 reviews
A long time ago in China, there existed three Books of Peace that proved so threatening to the reigning powers that they had them burned. Many years later Maxine Hong Kingston wrote a Fourth Book of Peace, but it too was burned--in the catastrophic Berkeley-Oakland Hills fire of 1991, a fire that coincided with the death of her father. Now in this visionary and redemptive ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Vintage (first published September 2nd 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 578)
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Jenny Shipp
This book just took me in. It starts out with the fire in the Oakland Hills. She is coming home from her father's funeral and finds the hills and her home on fire. she loses the first hundred or so pages of a book she was writing. the middle of the book is her attempt to recreate that story. the rest of the book is about a writing group she begins for veterans of war. It is moving and much of it is what she says about writing, and going deeper and healing. AND she talks about being "Eldest Siste ...more
Aug 10, 2008 jo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with a craving for inner peace
i find this book amazing beyond words. if i had written it, i would think that my life work is done and i'd start preparing for death. okay, this is way too morbid. let me just say that i read this book at a point in my life when life really sucked, and by the time i finished it life was a large, generous, calm river teeming with colorful boats, peace, and possibilities.

i taught it and no one liked it. there must be truly few of us who find this book amazing. at least read the first stunning cha
Ashanti Miller
Unstructured, but good. You really have to be in the mood for a meandereing story. The first part is great, but you will need a glass wone wine to slow your mind down to appreciate the rest of the book lest you miss all the hidden treasures. Whittman Ah Sing has always been difficult to fathom, yet strangley compelling. Crafty monkey...
The Fifth Book of Peace is split into four parts, Fire, Paper, Water, and Earth. The first two sections and the last chronicle Kingston's journey from her house burning down with her unfinished manuscript for a novel entitled the Fifth Book of Peace, and how this loss inspired her to create a writer's workshop for war veterans, specifically of the Vietnam War, to write their own books of peace. These are great, the writing is interesting, the stories of the devastating loss of Maxine's home and ...more
Susan Emmet
Reread this book after years away from it. I so liked The Woman Warrior and this novel/memoir is one fine book, too.
Kingston takes readers into the loss of her home in Oakland CA, prey to a huge wildfire. She tries to recover treasured family items, as well as the draft of The Fourth Book of Peace, to little avail. A professor at Berkeley, she finds some comfort in friends and family, but is determined to find the Book of Peace.
The next segment traces the journey of the the Ah Sing family (Tan
Review published in the New Zealand Herald, November 2003

The Fifth Book of Peace
Maxine Hong Kingston
(Secker & Warburg, $34.95)

Reviewed by Philippa Jamieson

This is a book to read in large chunks. A few pages before bed makes it hard to get into. Don’t expect a plot. Don't expect a novel, or autobiography, or memoir – it's the Chinese form of 'talk-story', a collage of mythical, real and imaginary worlds.
Maxine Hong Kingston searches in vain for the lost books of peace of Chinese mythology. Di
Sep 10, 2009 Lanie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all, especially those going through life transitions (aren't we all, though?)
Shelves: abandoned-books
I met Maxine at a post-play party and a few days later, while taking shelter from the pouring rain in the SF public library, this book seemed to jump off the shelf. It was the perfect time in my life to find the book.

She was working on the "4th Book of Peace" for years, and then the entire manuscript was burned in the Oakland fires. The first chapter, her description of running through the hills, trying to save her book, is impossible to put down. It's incredibly poignant and I think speaks volu
Sep 24, 2012 Tia marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the patient reader.
I couldn't finish this book. That's a first for me. Maybe in a time when I can enjoy it somewhere other than the Metro, I'll reread it; but I'm not promising anything.

This is a journey. It's more than the book Kingston lost in a fire. The reader gets the rewritten version of her lost text - a family moving to Hawaii in order to avoid the draft. Two artists raising their child to love and not fight, and they are surprised by their "welcoming" and stay. I assume the chapters following "Water" expl
I have stories to tell about this book, which I'll spare for now. But I found this book for $1 on the shelves of a bookstore in the Poconos, bought a few copies, and have dispersed them hence. There's something about the combination of fiction and non-fiction in this particular book, from the story of how Kingston lost the book she was writing in the flames of the Oakland fire that consumed her house to how she was coping with her father's death before that...

And I think the way she was able to
Sharon Villainelle
This might well be my favorite of Kingston's works, and that's saying a great deal. Her language is simultaneously lyrical and grounded, a perfect weaving for a narrative that is itself a patchwork of truth and fiction. She examines themes of loss and resurrection, peace and turmoil, object and idea. In short, it is a work that examines the space where oppositions come together to create life.
Interesting combination of fiction and memoir from a Berkeley professor who lost her home in the Berkley/Oakland Hills fire in 1991 as well as the book she was writing at the time - "The Fourth Book of Peace". Here she recreates the history of the original 3 books of Peace, the fictional story of the Fourth Book and her experience working for peace as she conducts writing workshops for veterans and incorporates mindfulness meditation, Buddhist traditions and more.
The vets' writings based on th
Although all of Kingston's books have had an impact on me, this had the greatest. Maybe it's because I grew up in Oakland, and although I didn't live there when the fire happened, the area is familiar to me, as Stockton, where she had been to her father's funeral.

The book is about loss and not really re-birth, but re-finding. She takes a journey with Vietnam Veterans and they all discover something within themselves. It became very emotional for me. Even though I knew people who had been in the
This book is really 3 books
the book of how she lost her book in the Oakland Fire
the book re-written (our heros from Tripmaster Monkey)
and the book of her work with veterans.

She is very wise and her brain works in some of the strange ways mine does, and my friends and colleagues from the Bay Area. But sadly she writes in one long constant steady rhythm that lulls me to sleep and makes it hard to finish all 400 pages. I'm always glad when I read a chunk, but I have been reading it off and on for a
2.5 stars. Hong Kingston is a wonderful writer, and she does talk story so artfully. Her message is compelling and the descriptions of loss are profound, but the disorganization of the book detracts greatly from this.
Probably just me, but I gave up on this one pretty early on. Too much loss.
So far, not bad. I have been a Kingston fan ever since The Woman Warrior , and in this newest book she still straddles that terrifyingly blurry line between fiction and nonfiction. Her narrator tends to wander to and from matters of her family, literature, opposition the 1991 Gulf War...but the writing is strong, literary and engaging. I look forward to seeing where she goes with this.
This is a book about war and peace and loss. I'd read other books by this author and saw this one, which starts out with her losing the novel she'd been writing. Her house burned down, her whole neighborhood burned down. The book is about the fire and the process of rewriting the lost book, with the rewritten book included. The writing has magical elements. It's a really compelling book that made me think a lot about war and peace and what it means to have peace, especially when you have been at ...more
Ellen Johnson
The first part was great. By the time I was halfway thru part 3 I was ready to ditch it. maybe the end turned more hopeful?
One section of this is fictional and takes place in Hawaii during the Vietnam War. The rest is non-fiction and discusses ideas of peace, community and loss. She talks about the loss of her house and manuscript to a fire in Oakland. Also her involvement with a combination creative writing and meditation workshop with Vietnam veterans. Her writing is so different - fragmented and trippy, but still graceful and powerful.
The Amazing Jill
I got to have lunch with the author, actually.

But anyway, this is really good. Mrs. Kingston has a very strange and yet unique style of writing. Her sentences are sometimes short, brief, yet meant to provoke a pause for thought. You'll pause quite often to think with this book.

We need more books of peace. Go write one.
Jul 22, 2010 Kasey is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading this book for...3 or 4 years. It's very complex and moves in and out of space and time and it's something you need the time to just sit and read. It's not a causal read at all. I am determined to finish it this summer because it is beautifully written and I do want to see how the stories pan out.
May 27, 2011 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Kate by: found it in the library
This book has been incredible for me to read. It's achingly beautiful and carries such a strong message of peace. Peace in a deeper way than I have ever understood peace. Please read this book. Especially in this time of war, we need this book.
a memoir that fits in nicly with my current reading list of books about China. She refers to aspects of Chinese history - that I leared about recently. There is a reason to read in depth - new information soon becomes comfortable, old information.
Foster Dickson
I really liked the nonfiction sections of this book, but didn't like all of the sections of it. The opening sequence about the fire was really powerful, and the latter portions about the Vietnam veterans was equally strong.
Jul 21, 2007 Venessa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, pro-peace peeps
A beautiful book: Kingston's book was destroyed in a fire that swept her home in CA and she recreates it in this book, separated into five different parts. Also comments on the current Iraq War, and peace.
Still digesting the weight of this book. Don't understand the fictional center part of the book about the draft dodgers & sanctuary in Hawaii, but loved the rest of the non-fiction of the book.
The first section of this book is gripping, couldn't put it down. The second section is vaguely interesting. The third section bogged down so badly I just gave up.
Lori Stoltz
Kingston's books have always been inspirations to me and I read and re-read them whenever I get the chance. She is a dear friend and I will always admire her.
I guess I don't have as much appreciation for literary works as I thought...the concept of this book was fascinating but too slow-paced for me to really enjoy.
Shaheir Jibin
Every little detail from the protagonist's environment is surely to be described.


2/5 would not read again
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She was born as Maxine Ting Ting Hong to a laundry house owner in Stockton, California. She was the third of eight children, and the first among them born in the United States. Her mother trained as a midwife at the To Keung School of Midwifery in Canton. Her father had been brought up a scholar and taught in his village of Sun Woi, near Canton. Tom left China for America in 1924 and took a job in ...more
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“The difference between mad people and sane people . . . is that sane people have variety when they talk-story. Mad people have only one story that they talk over and over.” 13 likes
“The images of peace are ephemeral. The language of peace is subtle. The reasons for peace, the definitions of peace, the very idea of peace have to be invented, and invented again” 8 likes
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