Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Inheritance” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.69  ·  Rating details ·  805 ratings  ·  90 reviews
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 finds herself falling in love with her soldier husband. When the Japanese invade China, Junan and her husband are separated. Unable to follow him to the wartime capital, ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Inheritance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Inheritance

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  805 ratings  ·  90 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Inheritance
Connie G
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The mother of two sisters, Junan and Yinan, takes her own life. The Chinese woman had become depressed after hearing a rumor that her husband might take a second wife since she had been unable to produce a son. The two sisters draw together, becoming very close in spite of being very different. The beautiful, cool Junan is wed to Li Ang in an arranged marriage, and is surprised when she falls in love with him. During the 1930s when Japan invades China, soldier Li Ang is stationed in a far city. ...more
Smitha Murthy
I am sometimes weird. You can take me to Haagen-Daaz, and buy me a perfectly crafted ice-cream that is frozen to just the right consistency. And I might like it and thank you fervently. But I might go outside and jump around in glee and joy because I have found a local ice-cream vendor on his push-cart. No great recipes. Just ice-cream melting in a box in the heat. But oh, if you want to win me over, it’s the local ice-cream that wins me over each time.

‘Inheritance’ was a bit like that. Beautif
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Spanning 7 decades, the story of sisters, Yinan and Junan, is fraught with political chaos, social up-heaval and the tenuous hold of love. In 1931, the sisters are abandoned after their mother's suicide and promise to always love one another. Junan enters into an arranged marriage with a soldier and worries her somewhat backward sister will forever be alone. When Junan and her husband are separated due to Japan invading China, Junan makes the fateful decision to send Yinan to him so he is not al ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
I picked this book up from the library because it sounded interesting. I love to read historical fiction, but I found this story to be somewhat dry and hard to follow. I really had to focus to keep track of the story line and characters.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-american

• Why does the narrator say that her family story is “like a stone”?
• Hong says that all children are born into the middle of their family’s stories. How important is it for us to discover the whole story? Do we need it to know who we are?
• Why does Junan send Yinan to her husband?
• What is Hong’s relationship with her mother and father?
• How is the concept of love and passion developed and passed down between the women of the family? Does it change with the generatio
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t know why I didn’t pick up this book earlier. But I am so glad that I found and read it. It is beautifully written. And the story is compelling. (For what it’s worth, this is a refreshing take on pre-communist China; and the mother-daughter and the sister-sister dynamics are innovative here. eh-hem)

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

…Behind his silver spectacles, his eyes were watery in mild; he smelled healthy. Li Ang couldn't detect a gambler in him from his manners or his old well-fu
Cyber Dot
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A love story. A family story. A war story. Plot lines which depend on loyalty and fate.

There were some key moments in the dialogue when it would have been helpful to have clarity about who was speaking.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book about love and the inability to forgive. Love historical details about China.This is a bittersweet novel and I will probably not read anything else for a couple of days. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of our actions.
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
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
Chris Xu
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
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
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 again I wonder why ...more
Sep 12, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"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.... ...more
Jul 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: quest-into-china
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
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Dec 08, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lockdown
  • Beauty and Sadness
  • Conjure Women
  • Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction
  • Front Row at the Trump Show
  • Life
  • The Bear
  • Death by Discount: A Mara Gilgannon Mystery (Mara Gilgannon Mysteries, #1)
  • Little Gods
  • Saint Monkey
  • The Commoner
  • Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir
  • Playing House (Uptown, #1)
  • Braised Pork
  • Ursula, Under
  • Unbound
  • Blitzed (Playbook, #3)
  • A Distant Heart (Bollywood, #4)
See similar books…
Lan Samantha Chang (張嵐; pinyin: Zhāng Lán), born 1965, is an American writer of novels and short stories. She is Professor of English at the University of Iowa and Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Samantha Chang was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, the daughter of Chinese parents who survived the World War II Japanese occupation of China and later emigrated to the United States. Chang has receiv

News & Interviews

Last year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen struck a chord with her viral article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”...
63 likes · 9 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »