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Bury What We Cannot Take

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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  644 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events.

Now they
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Hardcover, 289 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Little A
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Rosh
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This book painted a painful picture of communism in China when the borders closed and the awful choices a family might have to make to get out of there. Did I like it? It was decent but I appreciat the story and intention of the author behind it.
Diane S ☔
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 Twelve year old, Ah Liam is a staunch supporter of the cultural revolution and of Chairman Mao. So much so that he reports his own grandmother for taking a hammer to the picture in their house, the picture every house must have, of their beloved Chairman. Coming from a priviledged background, his family still living in their Villa, albeit on only one floor, but still maintaining a few servents, he already has much to overcome. This act though will start a crushing tide of circumstances, one ...more
Rachel
Bury What We Cannot Take is a captivating novel about one family's attempt to flee from Communist China in 1957. Having been granted only 3 travel visas to Hong Kong for 4 family members, Seok Koon is forced to leave one of her children behind in order to legally exit the country, and Kirsten Chen explores the ramifications of this harrowing decision.

Bury What We Cannot Take is actually everything I had hoped Girls Burn Brighter was going to be. Both novels follow two parties which have been sep
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Natalia Sylvester
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautifully immersive story and one I know I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Using multiple POVs, Kirstin Chen depicts a family torn apart by unthinkable circumstances. The way she reveals each character’s truths and struggles and triumphs and losses is masterful, elevating the story past the usual question of “what would I do?” to arrive at a deeper, more complex understanding: that there are moments in life which rob us of choice, leaving us in their wake trying to somehow get ...more
Stephanie Anze
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
"What if a mistake was too grave to live with? What if the guilt wormed its way deep into the flesh and grew more and more potent, devouring tissue and fat and skin, until one day, you looked down and your whole self had been ravaged and nothing remained?"

When nine-year-old San San and twelve-year-old Ah Liam find that their grandma has taken a hammer against the portrait of Chairman Mao, they agree to remain silent. However, in an effort to please the party, Ah Liam reports his grandma. The fam
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Ingrid Contreras
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In Bury What We Cannot Take, a misjudged moment of anger uproots a family. The very beginning of the novel finds twelve-year-old Ah-Liam and nine-year-old San San returning home from school to discover their grandmother kneeling before the family altar and crying, her skirt partially hiding a hammer. Overlooking the room is a portrait of Chairman Mao “smiling benevolently at all who gazed upon him, oblivious to the spiderweb of cracks that scarred him.”

As recently as 2015, an individual defacing
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Afoma Umesi
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books whose titles grabbed me before anything else. I'm pleased to report that the rest of the book is just as evocative as that title. In Maoist China, twelve year old Ah Liam reports his grandmother for vandalizing a portrait of Chairman Mao and so starts a terrible chain of events. The family attempts to flee China, but in a heartbreaking plot twist, they are can only take one child. The novel follows the consequences of the devastating choice, Seok Koon (the mother) make ...more
Shawn Mooney
Mar 27, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish
It’s a harrowing story, set in China in 1957: a young boy reports his grandmother to the authorities for taking a hammer to a portrait of Chairman Mao. Unfortunately, the extremely weak characterization meant that, a fifth of the way in, I didn’t care about anyone or anything that was happening. I shall not be continuing. Great cover, though.
Imi
I'll be reading Chen's debut Soy Sauce for Beginners before this (it's on the tbr soon pile!), but I really enjoyed this article about the author's concern on whether she had the right to write the story she was planning for this, her sophomore novel: Am I Chinese Enough to Tell This Story? - https://lithub.com/am-i-chinese-enoug...
Ashley
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I truly believe San San deserved better despite everyone's best intentions.
BlondeVsBooks
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This gripping story epitomizes family, culture, radicalism, and living with the consequences of our choices. I have not read many books about Communism and I became emotionally attached to the characters as the borders began to close and they had to leave San San behind. The family’s struggles were heart wrenching. I read Bury What We Cannot Take fervently, searching for consolation. We highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a cultural, political, all-around good read.


CLICK HERE FOR B
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Mia Bonardi
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mia by: Kirstin Chen
I had the opportunity to meet the author, Kirstin Chen, in a Publishing course I took at Northeastern University this past Spring. My professor went to graduate school with Chen and she was on her Bury What We Cannot Take book tour in Boston, so she stopped by our class. The major topics that she discussed about Bury What We Cannot Take were cultural representation, her inspiration, the cover art, and her blurbs.

If you have an interest in Chen’s struggle with cultural representation or her inspi
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Carrie Nelson
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks-own, giveaways
Set in Maoist China, a young boy, Ah Liam, reports that his grandmother took a hammer to Chairman Mao's portrait because he believes that is the right thing to do. This causes Ah Liam's family to flee to Hong Kong, where his father has been living, but the government will not provide enough visas which results in one of the children being left behind.

A harrowing tale about living with the consequences of our choices.
Kate
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think the book was good and played out some interesting scenarios - if and how and when to get your family out of your home country; family dynamics; sibling gender differences.

I totally rounded up the stars because it was refreshing to read a story that was not dependent upon frequent violence against women; or a book that alternates between different time periods; or writing that overly simplifies parenting as a perfect, loving, easy thing; or characters that never change or grow. I also ap
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Heidi Perling
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received this book and a Goodreads giveaway, but I would have loved it even if I had paid for it. It's a fascinating peek into life in China after the communist revolution. I'll be thinking about these characters for a long time... I really liked the way their emotions we're expressed through the descriptions of their physical movements. It was hard to put this one down, and I'm sure I'll revisit it someday.
Jacqueline
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I look forward to reading more works by this author. Captivating story, well-written and interesting characters, but it did feel a bit too short and surface level. I feel like most of the time long books could be much shorter, but in this case I feel like this book should have been longer. Nonetheless I enjoyed the family dynamics, character arcs, and story of censorship and repression in Maoist China.
Ethel Rohan
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel's title, cover and prose are a class act. It's a gripping, heartfelt story set against the backdrop of Maoist China. The horrors of that communist regime are efficiently and effectively rendered and left me hurting at our capacity for cruelty and inhumanity. The wealth of details are vivid and visceral and brought both place and people alive. I wanted more in terms of character motivation and the novel's close, but am so glad to have read this fine work.
juddy18
Great book! I received an ARC in advance of interviewing her for a student-run blog and really enjoyed the riveting story!
Rachel Rooney
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, netgalley, fiction
After an impulsive action is reported by one of its members, a family is forced to flee early communist China for Hong Kong, leaving behind one of the children with the hope that the child will be able to follow behind soon.

I was entranced pretty much right away by this novel, and I wanted to know what happened. The decision about which child to take and which to leave is made in a second. It's startling how quickly. Anyway, I don't want to say too much. But I thought the novel was well-done. M
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Cathie
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked the time frame and the topic, but it's what I call "short sentence" style of writing, which I don't care for. It felt cliched and the ending too pat.
Maggie Boyd
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Our immigration system is a hot topic in the news lately and it seems like personal accounts of success and failure by people who come to this great land are broadcast by our media on a regular basis. Bury What We Cannot Take is a story of immigration which moves the issue to a historical context; it’s a powerful, emotional tale of a family leaving mainland China after it has fallen to the communists and the pain of rebuilding their lives in Hong Kong.

Their family had once been large and wealthy
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Victoria Law
Finished in one night.
Atheinne
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
Provided only three permits/visas available given to a family of four, which family members would you bring with you to a place far from the rule of communism? Your choices are:

A. Your mother-in-law (grandmother of your children)
B. Your first child (son)
C. Your second child (daughter)

In the case of Soo Keon, mother and daughter-in-law, she chose Bee Kim and Ah Liam, believing that within a few days time, little San San would rejoin them on the other side. Unfortunately, the circumstances wouldn'
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Columbus
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I absolutely devoured the first 60 percent of this tale set in 1957 communist China. A family seeking to flee an islet bordering China to Hong Kong after an unfortunate incident by one of the family members. Only three travel visas are allowed to insure that the family returns back to China.

The book was really captivating and the writing rather strong with mentions of communism, Chairman Mao, radicalism etc.... But, then this quite interesting, serious story morphed into a sort of mundane, lit
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Barbra
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. One impulsive action resulted in a cascade of terrible events. So hard to imagine living in a society within which such a decision is even a thinkable one to make. All involved paid for that decision. It was interesting to read how each person responded.
Wow
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to confess that what got my attention was the cover art and the title, otherwise I would've never picked it up as I haven't heard of the author or her other books before.

The story is set in the 1950s during Mao's reign in China . It's about the decision of a family to leave a child behind in order to get away , the repercussions of it.

The plot centers around sun sun survival and loss of innocence as she ventured into a journey to find her family struggling with the abandonment issues and
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Sachi Argabright
This book is devastatingly beautiful. The family we follow is put in a difficult situation that spirals downward, and I continued to wonder what would happen next. It has a serious and heavy tone, but I believe it added more to the story and built larger stakes. I also loved the ending, all the way to the last sentence. I wasn’t sure how this book would end (there were still a lot of loose ends even up to the last hour), but I loved how Chen wrapped this book up. I was surprised about the conclu ...more
Ming
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The abrupt and implausible ending was messy, and it didn't match the rest of the book in its attempt to explain the happenings and move the story.

The writing is solid in terms of the mechanics of English, but it's plain and simplistic. The premise of the story is interesting but the storytelling is not compelling. I found the tone and affect to be staid or inauthentic. The characters took on a cartoonish or cardboard quality.

This is the second book of the author's that I've read. I don't think I
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Lindsay Nixon
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book held my interest and I appreciated reading a story that took place outside of America during a certain historical period. It also felt a little like the movie “Home Alone”at times and became a vivid literary example of how 9yo kids can survive and endure. Overall this was a good change of pace for me and emotionally moving, buuuut the ending felt abrupt—a sudden crash and sharp which knocked it down a little.
enyanyo
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What if a mistake was too grave to live with? What if the guilt wormed its way deep into the flesh and grew more and more potent, devouring tissue and fat and skin, until one day, you looked down and your whole self had been ravaged and nothing remained?

This is a painful story, told beautifully. Also, San San is a total badass!
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Kirstin Chen's new novel, Bury What We Cannot Take (Little A, March 2018), has been named a Most Anticipated Upcoming Book by Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle, among others. She is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners. She was the fall 2017 NTU-NAC National Writer in Residence in Singapore, and has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, ...more
“Haven't you learned by now that he's as powerless as the rest of us? We're at the Party's mercy. If only we'd accepted that from the start.” 0 likes
“His questions were hers: What if a mistake was too grave to live with? What if the guilt wormed its way deep into the flesh and grew more and more potent, devouring tissue and fat and skin, until one day, you looked down, and your whole self had been ravaged and nothing remained?” 0 likes
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