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A Thread of Sky: A Novel

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3.29  ·  Rating details ·  445 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
"This is one of those rare novels that delivers on the promise of its opening pages... No smart woman should leave on vacation without it." -ChicagoTribune.com

When her husband of thirty years is killed, Irene Shen and her three daughters are set adrift. In a desperate attempt to heal her fractured family, Irene plans a tour of mainland China, reuniting three generations
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published April 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Annalisa
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love books about China, particularly about how Chinese culture impacts women. In this tale, three Chinese-American sisters, their mother, aunt, and grandmother travel to China for one last chance to bond the way a family should but they never have. Each chapter is told through the point of view of a different woman, all in third person, which at times was hard to follow, but for the most part I liked getting the different perspectives and what they thought of each other.

Strangely enough, I di
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☮Karen
It is to present-day China that Chinese/American Irene decides to take her 3 daughters, her Chinese mother, and Chinese sister to visit. The chapters alternately focus on each of the 6 females with their individual problematic lives, so the characters are very well developed. The only one I really had any empathy for was the 80 year old grandmother, who lived through all the wars of her young adulthood as a revolutionary feminist, until finally leaving China and her philandering husband 20 years ...more
Manuhuia Barcham
I can't say enough good things about this book!!!

Deanna Fei has done to me what Hume did to Kant - awakened from my dogmatic slumber I feel invigorated once again to read and write...

It's just a great story! Some of the sentences and phrases are just gold... The type of thing where you stop to re-read sentences because of the way they glide off the tongue. It's rare that happens when I read nowadays so its such a joy when it does occur.

The development of the story is delightful - and one has
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Mari
Oct 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compelling read about three sisters first generation American sisters who travel back to their parents' native China with their mom, aunt and grandmother, a former nationalist revolutionary forced to flee the Communists to Taiwan.
The author does a great job of conveying the mixed emotions of the sisters as they spend more time with their older relatives, than at any previous point in their adult lives. Their mother sacrificed her career in favor of stay at home motherhood, and the trip is sor
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Sal
Jul 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophical
I really wanted to like this book since it was gift from the author, who by the way has an incredible story of her own. At first I was intrigued by the characters but then I guess I got bored since I'm used to reading books with romance and fast-paced action. But, then I caught on on how the lives of these women were intertwined and new secret were being unraveled, and read nearly half the book in one day because I really wanted to know if they'd all have their happy ending. Ultimately this book ...more
Beth

Mothers/Daughters and the Sights & Sounds of China
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Deanna Fei's book, "A Thread of the Sky". This novel weaves a marvelous tapestry - both with the relationships of grandmother, sisters, and daughters and the history and perceptions of life that each brings to their two-week vacation trip to China.
I found the characters to be very realistic in their relationships with each other and in their reactions to what they were seeing. Fei does a marvelous job describing
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Janis
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful, touching and powerful book. The characters are wonderfully flawed, passionate, beautiful and human. I identified so deeply with the immigrant experience of the mothers and daughters. Fei is a skilled writer who is by turns lyrical, funny, sexy, and always smart and affirming of her readers. The story spans nations and continents but has a great deal of emotional intimacy. The themes of love, loss, family, politics are well drawn. I am looking forward to her next novel!
lisa MacColl
This book came highly recommended by a friend. I really wanted to like it. The writing is beautiful and evocative. I'm 3/4 through the book and I'm still trying to like any of the characters. I'm at the "well, I'm 3/4 through so I might as well soldier on and finish the thing" stage.

I'm not carrying this book around snatching time to read it. It stays by my bedside table and I read at bedtime, but I'm not staying up late trading sleep for one more chapter.

It's beautifully written, the descript
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Esther Bradley-detally
Lovely, lovely writing; References Alzheimer's as "brain plaques and fibrillary tangles," "strands caught in knots." Her style is wonderfully literary, yet compelling about sisters, mother, and grandmother's return to China for a trip; and relationships and lives so differently lived. Philosophical observations keenly observed, choices of women, foward pull and backward pull, one's place within the generations and the society. Wonderful read.
Mario
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deanna Fei's A Thread of Sky is a beautifully written story with well-crafted characterizations, and it is emotionally driven-it was never a dull moment. This book has some interesting insights on being Asian-American, esp. being a woman, in America and China. The only small complaint is the ending, I would had liked to see an aftermath or one year later conclusion to all of the characters.Nevertheless, an excellent addition to anyone's library.
Patsey
Mothers and daughters, a complicated love.
"Mom was starting to grow old, while Sophie was becoming grown up. She was stronger than Mom now." Karin and me in Hawaii with the rental car. xo
"But you might never feel ready to be a mother, until you become a mother. That's what your child teaches you how. That's what you did for me." Camille xo
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
A Thread of Sky is the story of six women - Irene Shen, whose husband of thirty years is killed in an accident four hours after he left her to pursue an opportunity in Maine and she said "Good riddance" in response to him leaving; her three daughters, Nora, who's struggling with commitment issues with a fiancé who cheated on her, Kay, who was tired of the question "Where are you from?" and decided to find out by going to China, and the teenager Sophie, suffering from bulimia and self-image issue ...more
Marie
Jul 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In A Thread of Sky, Irene plans a trip to China. It’s supposed to be a family reunion of sorts as well as a celebration of Lin Yulan’s (Irene’s mother) 80th birthday. She has to convince her daughters (two nearby and one already in China), her sister and her mother to take the trip. Since Irene’s husband was tragically killed, the family has drifted apart; Irene hopes this trip will change that. Once in China, the family visits various tourist attractions while trying to connect with one another ...more
Meg
Deanna Fei’s A Thread Of Sky is a lyrical look at life for one complicated family — one of my favorite types of stories. In Fei’s novel are issues as diverse as racism and family dynamics, infidelity and bulimia. Pregnancy. Marriage. Choosing a career over raising children. Being a woman in a man’s world.

Learning to let those who love you . . . love you.

Though I found it difficult to connect with Irene’s younger daughters, Kay and Sophie, I was consistently interested in Nora and her struggles a
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Meg
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deanna Fei’s A Thread Of Sky is a lyrical look at life for one complicated family — one of my favorite types of stories. In Fei’s novel are issues as diverse as racism and family dynamics, infidelity and bulimia. Pregnancy. Marriage. Choosing a career over raising children. Being a woman in a man’s world.

Learning to let those who love you . . . love you.

Though I found it difficult to connect with Irene’s younger daughters, Kay and Sophie, I was consistently interested in Nora and her struggles a
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Julie
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
’m finding it hard to sum up this book, because it has so many layers, most of which I enjoyed until the end, it’s hard to figure out where to begin. This book is an excellent example of women’s fiction at it’s finest. The books characters are six women, all who are stubborn, complex women, who are trying to (or have tried to in the past) make a difference in the world around them. The book is a very character driven book, it spends most of the time building up information of the women’s lives, ...more
Louise
Jul 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Story Description:

Penguin Press|E-Reader Edition|KOBO|ISBN: 978-1-101-19767-7

Looking to reconnect with their ancestral home and with one another, three generations of women tour mainland China on a journey that will change their family forever.

A stunning debut, A Thread of Sky is the story of a family of women and the powerful thread that binds their lives. In following the paths chosen by six fiercely independent women, A Thread of Sky explores the terrain we must travel to recognize the streng
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Bookworm
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Joy Luck Club lite I came across this book in an usual fashion. Deanna Fei was inadvertently involved with a blowup earlier in 2014 where an executive of AOL slammed the insurance costs of two babies. Fei wrote an article in response to these comments, outlining her second pregnancy, the normal manner in which it proceeded and and the gratitude she felt for the medical help and the insurance to pay for the costs. It was an exceptionally compelling piece (her child turned out to be okay) and ...more
Franc
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A multi-generation women's story. Grandmother, mother and sister, daughters go on vacation together to their family homeland of China, urged/prodded/invited/guilted by the mother (Irene) after mourning her husband and the life she thought they had.

In getting to know their grandmother, Lin, the granddaughters, Nora, Kay & Sophie, learn the old woman used to be a revolutionary in her youth, thru China's wars with Japan and Communism. Irene tries earnestly to connect with her mother, her sister
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Nancy
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Chinese culture
Thank you Goodreads for this First Reads win!

This is a book about a group of diverse Chinese women who share a common heritage but are emotionally and physically apart. The recently widowed mother conceives of the idea of taking a trip to China with her three estranged daughters, sister and mother, hoping the trip will help them reconnect. All of them operate on a web of misunderstandings that are brought to light by their close quarters while traveling together and incidents that happen along t
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Yiye
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended by a speaker I met at a conference. She recommended this book after I told my story of coming to the United state from China as an international student. She thinks I might be able to relate to the story. And she was certain right!

Irene, a mom of 3 grown up daughters, is newly widowed after her husband was killed in a car accident. She decided to invite all ladies in the family - her daughters, her 80 year old mom and her sister - to a two weeks vacation to mainland Chi
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K
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asianness
A family of 6 Chinese-American women from 3 generations reconnect during a two week tour of China's "must-sees." Narrative perspective shifts from character to character with each chapter, with some characters much less fleshed out than others. Strange that these women should be estranged, since their respective chapters revealed that they're so alike--intelligent, selfish, closed-off, ambitious, proud, surprisingly lacking in self-awareness. Yet despite their considerable flaws, I found myself ...more
MMC
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a well-written book. Vivid descriptions that didn't over do it. I also liked how all of the characters had secrets that emerged one by one through their journey to China. I will say that starting with the grandmother down, these people all have serious issues. A combination of a need to be perfect and an unwillingness to demonstrate vulnerabilities--they should go on a spiritual retreat in Bali next! That all said, I can see why many people gave this novel 4 stars. I knocked off a star ...more
T
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: asian, asian-author
For those of you that like the multi-generational cultural stories, this one's for you....

Irene is a recent widow, whose husband leaves to take a temporary teaching position at an out-of-state college, but is he leaving her as well? She gave up a promising career as a research scientist to raise her family.

Irene's older sister Susan is a poet, who married an older man, but who as a younger professor had a younger Hispanic lover.

Irene and Susan's mother was a noted revolutionary figure who fled C
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Maggie
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bert Edens
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the author's treatment of identity and Chinese-American identities in this book. I feel like I've read books that relied on easy Asian stereotypes to carry through the ethnic elements, to make them understandable or palatable to the reader...first/second gen'ers going back to the mother country, bumbling around in an unfamiliar language, being seen as the other. Or there is the character who is fluent in the language and manages to fit in pretty completely. But for me, this novel approach ...more
Liz
Mar 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: china buffs
Recommended to Liz by: goodreads
This book was just okay for me, I really expected something more. Maybe a little more bonding. Definitely would have learned more about Ma as a revolutionary in China and losing her only son and adopting another as her actual son.

This book is about Irene, a widowed,mother of 3 daughters, who plans a reuniting trip to China that includes her daughters, her sister Susan, and her mother. The group of all different personalities and their own separate problems in their lives come together to site se
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Meghan
Nov 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, an Amy Tan imitator, is the story of three generations of women who take a vacation in China. For the three daughters, the trip might be a way to discover their roots, and maybe make sense of who they are as Asian-American women. For the mother and sister, it is a chance to make peace with an unpleasant childhood. For the grandmother, the significance of the trip is not clear until the end of the book. But, in each case, the trip often just confuses the issues and we see each characte ...more
Abby
A Thread of Sky focuses on a trip to China taken by three generations of Chinese-American women. In an interview, the author had said that she harbors mixed feelings about Amy Tan and did not want her book to be merely a re-tread of that experience. But this book also portrays Asian American families in a similar way.

Fei is a talented writer but has a tendency to vacillate between lecture-type or melodramatic narratives. Why do all of the women have to struggle with their love lives, including A
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Deanna Fei is the author of the new memoir GIRL IN GLASS (Bloomsbury), hailed as “extraordinarily beautiful” by NPR and “an impassioned, important book” by the Washington Post. GIRL IN GLASS was recently featured on PBS NewsHour, Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, and NPR’s All Things Considered, among other outlets.

In 2014, Fei's essay, “My Baby and AOL’s Bottom Line,” went viral worldwide and sparke
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“A love gone bad, a sea of bitterness: such an everyday thing. As ordinary as the tide, and perhaps as relentless. But tides turned, too.” 3 likes
“Here it was like wind or rain, a sign of the seasons, just part of the weather-- another element of this country that took hold of her, even as it eluded her grasp” 2 likes
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