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Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  549 ratings  ·  56 reviews
This is a true and touching story of one Chinese woman's search for home. It is also an inspiring book about human yearning for a better life. To escape poverty, Flora Li fought her way through the education system and became one of the few women to get into the prestigious Hong Kong University. When the Japanese invaded, she fled to unoccupied China, where she met her fut ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published September 20th 2015 by Homa & Sekey Books (first published November 1st 2006)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  549 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Meg - A Bookish Affair
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
I. Loved. This. Book. This is the true story of Flora Li, the author's daughter. Flora is a really amazing person. She moved all over Asia before coming to the United States. All the while, she takes care of her family and makes sure that all of her children are able to meet their full potential. I definitely found myself rooting for Flora as she faces some of the hardships in her life. Veronica Li, Flora's daughter and the author of the book, had the amazing foresight to have her mother, a fab ...more
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Journey Across the Four Seas is about Veronica Li's mother. Flora Li was living in Hong Kong in 1941. It is a few weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Flora Li is attending Hong Kong University without a care in the world. Then, rumors started about the Japanese invading Hong Kong and how they killed hundreds of thousands of people in China and also made rape a common event.

Flora has very light skin and is very beautiful. However, after the war breaks out, her family rubs her with soy s
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, read-2012
When Veronica Li’s aging parents came to live with her, she was reminded of her mother Flora’s love for telling stories about her life, and how much she enjoyed listening to them. Li started taping the stories and, once arranged chronologically, was left with the material for this biography.

I’ll often read something because it looks interesting and end up serendipitously filling gaps in my knowledge that I hadn’t anticipated. In this instance, through the story of one woman, I received keen insi
Sivasothi N.
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Veronica Li writes clearly and enjoyably for her mum, Flora Li, an enterprising and strategic lady who grows up in Hong Kong but ultimately settles in the US.

She shares a frank account (1921 - 1967) as dictated to her of Flora Li’s struggles through the challenges of the loss of a parent, poverty, TB, war, displacement both physically and mentally, undiagnosed mental health issues, and emigration, against a background of tumultuous times.

She would uproot herself to live in Chungking, Bangkok, S
When Veronica Li's aging parents came to live with her, she recorded her mother's story in her native Cantonese, and translated it for us. Flora's life spanned most of the 20th century. Born in Hong Kong in 1918, she emigrated to the USA in 1967. Between those years, she lived in poverty and in wealth; attained a college degree; fled the Japanese invasion; married securely but unhappily; moved many times as her husband lost jobs; had four children; worked; stayed at home to be a traditional, dut ...more
May 24, 2013 rated it liked it
A pretty good memoir of China/Hong Kong through the mid-20th Century. The story is actually the author's mother, who recorded her stories on audiotape. I found I liked her a little less as she got older--she really becomes a Tiger Mother, though I can certainly understand why, given the extremely competitive nature of Hong Kong schools. Still, I found her a little less likeable when she lost some of her vulnerability. Also found myself wanting to shout at her at times: "Get out of Mainland China ...more
Sandra Lentz
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life Goes in War Time

This life journey, preserved in a journal is a jewel. Veronica Li gives us the story of her mother's life during wartime in China. She shows us how the regular parts of life go on: education, room, board, marriage, children. Her mother was a strong person because she survived the normal and abnormal parts of her life in a common way, by never giving up. This story connects to everyone's life and the credit goes to both of these women.
Sverrir Sigurdsson
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the perfect Mother’s Day book. It’s lovingly written by a daughter about her mother’s life. It shows what a woman would do to hold the family together in spite of wars, revolutions and her husband’s mental problems. She never loses sight of her goal, which is to give her children the best opportunities for their future. This Chinese mother story holds true for mothers everywhere.

May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-book
This was a fascinating journal about a Chinese woman's life. It is all the more interesting because it is true. Although she ends up in the United States, this book is about her life in Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan. I really couldn't put it down once I started it!
Shirley Dagle
Success in survival.

An interesting story of a parent's struggle and survival to educate her children and honor her husband too. Good insight into Asia in turbulent times.
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting topic and time period - but the memoir is about a woman who just became totally unlikable. I didn't enjoy reading about why the writer is always right.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Journey Across the Four Seas - A Chinese Woman's Search for Home by Veronica Li is a wonderfully done look at the life of the author's mother, Flora Li. The story opens a few weeks before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and declare war on the USA and on England. Flora Li was living in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong (1941) when war broke out and there were immediate rumors of a Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. The citizens knew of the horrible way the Japanese had treated the citizens of N ...more
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
“The decision was the toughest I’d ever faced. The choice was between my husband and my son. If I moved to Taiwan, I could save one but ruin the other. … My only consolation was that I was abandoning him to a good home. Thus, with a heavy heart I left Patrick behind and flew with my four other children to Taipei. It was the summer of 1963.” Pg. 263.

How much would you sacrifice for your children? Most people would do everything. But would you do it at the expense of breaking up your family. In Jo
Sandra "Jeanz"
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Veronica e-mailed me to request that I read and review this book, and I have to say a large Thankyou to Veronica because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of her families life and how the history of China affected each of them. Flora had to undertake many arduous journeys to finally find a safe place to call home for herself and her family, she had to make some very difficult decisions.
I enjoyed reading the intricacies of how the Chinese family worked. The way Veronica's grandf
May 31, 2020 rated it liked it
The story that Flora Li tells is one reflective of the tumultuous times experienced by China during the latter half of the twentieth century. Flora's life touches on living in the British Colony of Hong Kong, escaping to Mainland China during the second Sino-Japanese war, becoming part of the Chinese diaspora living in Bangkok (and America later on), and marrying into a family with strong (Taiwanese) Nationalist government ties.

As a female of the times, she lives her life through a mixture of f
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I rarely read memoirs or biography books. This book was presented to me by the author and I thank her for allowing me to read and review her book. I enjoyed every page of it, as I journeyed with her mother Flora Li through 1941 China and became a part of her world through the great storytelling found in this book.

Journey Across the Four Seas is a book about a woman who struggled through poverty, war, seperation, diease, failed love and came through with strength and perserverance. Although she g
Rachel Cotterill
Flora Li was born in Hong Kong, lost her father at an early age, and fought against society and family alike for her right to a good education. Her life story spans China's invasion by the Japanese, and the subsequent civil war with the communists - and through marriage to the son of Chiang Kai-Shek's deputy prime minister, she finds herself unwittingly thrust into the heart of national politics.

The first part of the book tells of childhood hardships and extended families; connections which will
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
More than just your average memoir Journey Across The Four Seas reads like an adventure story that will touch you in many ways. Written down by Veronica Li the book takes the reader through decades of her Chinese mother's life up until the moment she leaves for America, thus taking the journey referred to in the title.
This book is so multifaceted it's hard to summarize it in just a few lines. Trying to escape poverty through education and wanting the same for her own children later on, Flora Li
Alicia Taylor
Veronica Li sat down with her mother and recorded her life story - one of great hardships, perseverance, and the occasional triumph - after discovering that her mother dreamed of writing. Instead of regular chapter numbers, the chapters are listed as "tape 1", "tape 2", etc to reflect this.

Her mother weaves a tale that began before World War 2 and continues to her move to America in the 1960's from China. She braves childhood poverty, a harsh mother, a father's death, disease, and war to achieve
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an engaging story of a young woman who overcomes poverty and the social constrictions of her generation to find her place in the world. Li, who writes in her mother's voice, presents a charming and very human narrator, someone we can easily relate to as a friend, mother, grandmother, and sister. In clear and concise prose, she effortlessly draws us into Flora's world, exploring the universal themes common to people of all generations and cultural backgrounds: war, illness, family conflic ...more
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is lovingly wrote from a daughters point of view about her mothers journey in life. This is something many families don't do anymore. This is a true story of Flora Li, A chinese woman's search for home from Asia to America, whilst looking after her children and bringing them up to the best of her ability.

Throughout the book I learned a lot about China stuff I would have probably never known but am now thankful to know. I struggled at first to get into the story and really listen to th
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-as-ebook
This is the true story of a Chinese woman's life through China through the 1940's to the 1970s. This book resonated with me because of my own Chinese heritage. This woman, Flora was the mother of 5 children and was a wonderful storyteller. Flora was not a timid Chinese woman kowtowing to her husband, she was strong and her family has benefitted from her strength, surviving war and poverty. She was university educated which was a rarity for women in my mother's generation. The book is from her po ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, often stranger than life tale of a family's adventures and trials in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and eventually the United States. It was very interesting to me, as a non-Chinese, to read of the extreme dedication and devotion of a Chinese mother to her (many) children. It would have been interesting to know more about how each of the children also saw the series of trials, but I know that it would not have fit in with the theme of the book.
Dee Miller
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good piece of Chinese history

This is a story of a feminist in Chinese culture, fighting for a better future for herself and her children against an oppressive, patriarchal system laced with marked tradition. Added is the burden of living with a spouse also suffering in his own way while dealing with chronic untreated mental illness that is far too common, an experience universal in far too many families of every culture. The story is educational and inspiring.

Toni Miranda
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
A little bit different perspective of China before and during Mao's reign coming from someone who lived in Hong Kong. She and so many others had their lives turned upside down during that time. It always amazes me to see the determination of people to overcome the obstacles that are placed before them. Dictators may rant and destroy, but they cannot destroy the human desire to prosper.
Diane D. Egan
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Inspiration to women everywhere.

I chose this book because women everywhere struggle especially Chinese women. The things Flora did for her family were inspiring. I was amazed at the children's accomplishments in the end. I also enjoyed the family pictures inserted here and there.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants reassurance that, though life is hard, there are people in this world who are an inspiration to keep the dream alive. This is a beautiful true story about overcoming the odds.

It's just an amazing story of endurance in the face of adversity. I'd recommend it for readers, 17 and above.
Luba L Hermanns
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perseverance, hope and faith.

Story is an inspiration to all women what they can do given the strength and will. Too many women depend too much on only what their husbands want regardless whether it is in the best interest of the family or even if it brings ruin to the family. Truly a remarkable women whose children and husband should be truly proud.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Favorite book of the year i laughed and cried, i want to keep reading other stories by this author

I am a picky reader, this is my first book on a Hong Kong story, I could actually feel the characters come to life. So wonderfully told, the families seemed like I knew them by the ending and I will miss picking up the book to see what happens next.
Zana Hart
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
Memoirs are my favorite reading and this one really sucked me in, partly because Veronica Li and I have stories that almost overlap. My father grew up partly in China and was very close to the age of Flora Li, Veronica's mother who dictated this story in Cantonese. I only got to China and Taiwan once, n 1962. With that much background, I couldn't put the book down and gobbled it u!
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I'm the author of two books: Journey Across the Four Seas and Nightfall in Mogadishu.

I write to understand the puzzles of my life, and it has turned out that what puzzles me puzzles other people as well.

My biggest puzzle was my mother. Like a dutiful Chinese daughter, I took my ailing parents into my home. My father was quirky as usual, no puzzle there, but my beautiful, saintly mother astonished

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“good times and bad times are like the sun and moon. You usually see one and not the other, and yet you know that both are always there. Therefore, she concluded, when your fortunes are riding high, you shouldn’t feel arrogant, and when they’re low, you shouldn’t feel depressed.” 1 likes
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