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The Distant Land of My Father

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Anna, the narrator of this riveting first novel, lives in a storybook world: exotic pre- World War II Shanghai, with handsome young parents, wealth, and comfort. Her father, the son of missionaries, leads a charmed and secretive life, though his greatest joy is sharing his beloved city with his only daughter. Yet when Anna and her mother flee Japanese-occupied Shanghai to Anna, the narrator of this riveting first novel, lives in a storybook world: exotic pre- World War II Shanghai, with handsome young parents, wealth, and comfort. Her father, the son of missionaries, leads a charmed and secretive life, though his greatest joy is sharing his beloved city with his only daughter. Yet when Anna and her mother flee Japanese-occupied Shanghai to return to California, he stays behind, believing his connections and a little bit of luck will keep him safe. Through Anna's memories and her father's journals we learn of his fall from charismatic millionaire to tortured prisoner, in a story of betrayal and reconciliation that spans two continents. The Distant Land of My Father, a breathtaking and richly lyrical debut, unfolds to reveal an enduring family love through tragic circumstances.


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Anna, the narrator of this riveting first novel, lives in a storybook world: exotic pre- World War II Shanghai, with handsome young parents, wealth, and comfort. Her father, the son of missionaries, leads a charmed and secretive life, though his greatest joy is sharing his beloved city with his only daughter. Yet when Anna and her mother flee Japanese-occupied Shanghai to Anna, the narrator of this riveting first novel, lives in a storybook world: exotic pre- World War II Shanghai, with handsome young parents, wealth, and comfort. Her father, the son of missionaries, leads a charmed and secretive life, though his greatest joy is sharing his beloved city with his only daughter. Yet when Anna and her mother flee Japanese-occupied Shanghai to return to California, he stays behind, believing his connections and a little bit of luck will keep him safe. Through Anna's memories and her father's journals we learn of his fall from charismatic millionaire to tortured prisoner, in a story of betrayal and reconciliation that spans two continents. The Distant Land of My Father, a breathtaking and richly lyrical debut, unfolds to reveal an enduring family love through tragic circumstances.

30 review for The Distant Land of My Father

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update: This book is on sale for $1.99 on Kindle today! Its one of the BEST BEST Historical fiction books 'ever'!!!!!!!!!!!!! It won 'book-of-the-year' in Los Angeles and San Jose -was an international best seller. -- I HIGHLY recommend it! Its still one of my favorite books of all times. Read about Shanghai in ways you almost never find in other books! The author-Bo Caldwell -- got her inspiration from this story from her 'grandfather' --(not her father). She lives here in the Bay Area. The most Update: This book is on sale for $1.99 on Kindle today! Its one of the BEST BEST Historical fiction books 'ever'!!!!!!!!!!!!! It won 'book-of-the-year' in Los Angeles and San Jose -was an international best seller. -- I HIGHLY recommend it! Its still one of my favorite books of all times. Read about Shanghai in ways you almost never find in other books! The author-Bo Caldwell -- got her inspiration from this story from her 'grandfather' --(not her father). She lives here in the Bay Area. The most lovely woman and author! My friend Susan just read this book --- I'm reminded that this is one of my favorite books. I recommend it often --and to everyone!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    Wonderful, wonderful book. Story takes place in Shanghai and Pasadena. Anna, the narrator, starts out living in a storybook world. Her father is a millionaire making his fortune in pre war Shanghai by buying and selling, trading with anyone who is willing. He is among other Europeans, many sent by their companies, some working for their governments. But he is a self made man. His personality changes after his first brushes with the Japanese after they invade China and he believes himself Wonderful, wonderful book. Story takes place in Shanghai and Pasadena. Anna, the narrator, starts out living in a storybook world. Her father is a millionaire making his fortune in pre war Shanghai by buying and selling, trading with anyone who is willing. He is among other Europeans, many sent by their companies, some working for their governments. But he is a self made man. His personality changes after his first brushes with the Japanese after they invade China and he believes himself charmed. He begins to openly show his fortune and holds many secrets even from his wife. After Pearl Harbor his wife and daughter Anna return to California. He is finally taken prisoner by the Japanese. When he is released he once again begins to return to his life of trading in goods. Soon however Mao becomes prominent and the Nationalists once again imprison him. Joseph Shoene loses much during his lifetime and makes many mistakes, leaving his wife and Anna in California and never returning. Eve's attempt to reconnect by going to Shanghai is a disaster. However years later when Anna is grown and married with a child her father contacts her. He begins to rebuild his connection with her and her daughters. He is now a poor janitor but accepts his fate well at this point. I loved this book. It was so rich in the power of relationships, love, forgiveness and healing. Shanghai is wonderfully described. Highly recommend for lovers of historical fiction and just great stories!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I highly recommend this book. It will appeal to those who enjoy books about family relationships, it will appeal to those who enjoy learning about historical events in foreign lands and finally it will appeal to those who enjoy historical biographies. This is a book of historical fiction. It is not based on real lives, but the writing feels so genuine that you believe the characters really did exist. The maternal grandparents of the author where Christian missionaries in China. The author knows I highly recommend this book. It will appeal to those who enjoy books about family relationships, it will appeal to those who enjoy learning about historical events in foreign lands and finally it will appeal to those who enjoy historical biographies. This is a book of historical fiction. It is not based on real lives, but the writing feels so genuine that you believe the characters really did exist. The maternal grandparents of the author where Christian missionaries in China. The author knows China and this shows in her writing. Her research is impeccable. Historical facts and even such small details as the songs and movies, hits of those times, are woven into the thread. It is the details that makes this book feel genuine. The book grabbed me from the start. Anna, six years old, lives with her wealthy parents, an American mother and a father born in China but to American missionaries. He is educated in the States, where the couple meet. But China is his home, and Shanghai is the love of his life. His love for this city makes Shanghai in the 1930s just glow. His love for this city and his daughter are one. He teaches her everything about it. As he teaches her we learn too. You must know how someone's enthusiasm for a place or subject is contagious? This is what you experience when you read about the time he spends with his young daughter in the parks, walking along the Bund and eating in the restaurants in Shanghai. The statues and the marble columns and green domes, the glittery exuberance, the hotel where newspapers are ironed every morning. The details put you there. The Wangpoo River is not fragrant, the ships anchored along the side are noisy, the vendors are both noisy and smelly too. There is a map of the streets, buildings, the border of the International Settlement, th French Concession, the Soochow River crossed by the Garden Bridge. When they walk you know exactly where they are on the map. You see the city before the Japanese took over. This book offers a glimpse into the glittering lives of the Europeans living in the International Settlement. The story only begins here. Then the Japanese take control. Mother and daughter leave; father stays. Then the Jewish émigrés pour in, but this is not a book about them. Things go from bad to worse. What happened in in 1941 with the events of Pearl Harbor? And then later the Communists arrive. The book covers all of this. I must warn that the events are gruesome, but they were a reality for some. That the mother and daughter depart for the US, leaving the father behind, adds a second them to the story. This is well written too, but for me a bit less engaging. However I do think many others will enjoy this equally. The theme here is about family relationships, a bit about religion and simply growing older, finding out what we value in life and who we are. How do we relate to our parents both as a child and as we grow older? And it is about grandchildren and what passes from one generation to the next. Maybe a bit sentimental but quite nice! I recommend this book because it both teaches both about life in Shanghai from the 30s through the 50s and about the emotional feelings within one family. That family feels very real. This is not a book about the Jewish émigrés that flooded into Shanghai during the war. For that I suggest instead: Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl's Journey from Hitler's Hate to War-Torn China

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Annas father, Joseph, is not an American who wont come home, he is an American born in China to missionary parents and at home there. Shanghai is his home and he loves it. His wife, Eve, is an American who wants to go home, and Anna is a child with one foot in each culture. It is obvious to everyone that there is trouble on the horizon by 1941, but when Eve decides it is time to leave China, Joseph refuses to go with her. Thus, he is still present in Shanghai when the Japanese occupy the city Anna’s father, Joseph, is not an American who won’t come home, he is an American born in China to missionary parents and at home there. Shanghai is his home and he loves it. His wife, Eve, is an American who wants to go home, and Anna is a child with one foot in each culture. It is obvious to everyone that there is trouble on the horizon by 1941, but when Eve decides it is time to leave China, Joseph refuses to go with her. Thus, he is still present in Shanghai when the Japanese occupy the city and he begins a life that is separate from (and no doubt unimaginable for) his family. The story is told from Anna’s view point and is made even more poignant because it rings so true in the way it affects her life and her own choices and decisions. It is a story about anger, about misunderstanding, about longing and about forgiveness. My eyes were not dry by the end of the novel, and I felt as if I could understand Anna’s enigmatic father, her mother who loved him despite his seeming faults, and Anna herself, who wanted the loves and attentions of a man whose choices only seemed to make for loneliness and separation. My thanks to my good friend, Elyse, who told me many months ago that I should read this book. I bought it back then but let it languish on my Kindle for all this time. I am happy to have gotten to it at last.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Love

    I am such a sucker for historical fiction, and this book was a wonderful example of GOOD historical fiction. She really did her research, and I felt like I learned a good deal about those times in China and the U.S. 2 things I loved about this book: One, her descriptive writing was incredibly tangible, and so tactile. The way Anna viewed her father through rose-colored glasses-the descriptions by her of his hands, his smell, his hair, his words...it was just so endearing, and I could actually I am such a sucker for historical fiction, and this book was a wonderful example of GOOD historical fiction. She really did her research, and I felt like I learned a good deal about those times in China and the U.S. 2 things I loved about this book: One, her descriptive writing was incredibly tangible, and so tactile. The way Anna viewed her father through rose-colored glasses-the descriptions by her of his hands, his smell, his hair, his words...it was just so endearing, and I could actually experience her adoration for him. Her descriptions of Shanghai were equally mesmerizing. I felt as if I were walking down the streets with her. The other thing I loved about this book was it was just simply a story of redemption. I've read other reviews saying it was hard to believe the character at the end was truly changed..but the character would have been forgiven regardless, I believe, even if he hadn't changed. No suspense, twists, or turns in this book..just beautiful storytelling.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Sargent

    Bo Caldwell's fictional memoir "The Distant Land Of My Father" resonates with the story of my great grandmother Anna. The main character also Anna, the place also Shanghai China, the place also Los Angeles and the date also 1936. My great grandmother Anna Dennis also taught at the Church of The Open Door where the distant father of Caldwell's novel got saved. After a journey of nearly a month by freighter and delivered from a terrific storm enroute, Mrs Anna L. Dennis and Alma Bertschin Bo Caldwell's fictional memoir "The Distant Land Of My Father" resonates with the story of my great grandmother Anna. The main character also Anna, the place also Shanghai China, the place also Los Angeles and the date also 1936. My great grandmother Anna Dennis also taught at the Church of The Open Door where the distant father of Caldwell's novel got saved. After a journey of nearly a month by freighter and delivered from a terrific storm enroute, Mrs Anna L. Dennis and Alma Bertschin reached on Feb 13, 1936 the Bible Seminary for Women 500 Recreation Road, Kiangwan, Shanghai China. Scenes from my childhood played before me as a long forgotten photograph. Anna did not read to me from The Golden Book, however she had a special file for my art work and kept telling me that I must read "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck. Pearl Buck abandoned her faith in God, yet my fundamentalist grandmother Anna embraced her book. A true testimony to the fruits of the spirit. I just wish that Anna would have told me about her secretarial assistant Alma who ended up in a prisoner of war camp for four and a half years. After reading this book, now realize how grueling that must have been for Alma and for my father in prison as a nineteen year old father! So I began again reading for a second time "The Distant Land of My Father" walking in the good earth with Anna the child, Anna the writer, Anna the scorned daughter, Anna the mother, and Anna my spiritual grandmother: helping me to mediate the loving and hating aspects of being estranged from father. Anna the scorned daughter describes her father as a smuggler, a borrower, betrayed people that he loved, lied, been negligent, and hurt her mother. Yet he made her the light and destination map. What has he been drinking? "The mandarin heart is hard to grasp" is a Mandarin proverb quoted in this novel whose essence is that very elusiveness. The allure of Shanghai in the 30's is rivaled by the allure of the sea that my father embraced in the early fifties. Both left their families behind in the process. Like Graham Green's "Quiet American" I am asking these fathers what do you want from a foreign place and what are you planning to do with it? Willfullness can tear at the fabric of a family To be continued.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This story is so rich and textured I knew it had to be a labor of love. I was riveted to it in every spare moment for two days so I didn't take the time to check out the author. After I finished, in a quick internet search I found that Joseph Schoene is loosely based on the author's uncle. Her grandparents were missionaries in her mother's brother loved Shanghai. The book was too intimate and personal to have been a glimpse of her own father, but intimate and personal enough to be based on This story is so rich and textured I knew it had to be a labor of love. I was riveted to it in every spare moment for two days so I didn't take the time to check out the author. After I finished, in a quick internet search I found that Joseph Schoene is loosely based on the author's uncle. Her grandparents were missionaries in her mother's brother loved Shanghai. The book was too intimate and personal to have been a glimpse of her own father, but intimate and personal enough to be based on someone close and dear. Bo Caldwell takes care to color the times correctly. Popular books, music and events are mentioned in their periods, as are styles and dialogs. On the darker side I presume there is accuracy about life in Shanghai's prisons Japanese and, later, communist, prison camps. From the internet site I learned that a prequel is in the works. It will be called Distant Land and it will be a novel on the lives of the Joseph's missionary parents. I eagerly await the next novel. I highly recommend this book. Readers of the novels of Lisa See (especially "Shanghai Girls") will want to read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    A wonderful story about family, faith and history about China. Told in a memoir-esq form. This historical fiction novel, is one of the best I have ever read! I highly recommend it! Thanks Elyse ❤❤❤❤! A wonderful story about family, faith and history about China. Told in a memoir-esq form. This historical fiction novel, is one of the best I have ever read! I highly recommend it! Thanks Elyse ❤️❤️❤️❤️!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was pretty much a perfect book. I loved this book. The one and only flaw I can see is that at one point Anna spreads tuna fish onto raisin bread (ew). Other than that tiny detail, everything about this book was great. I loved the characters and the places. The story was wonderful and believeable. I felt like I could see Shanghai and California and each and every person in the story. I wish I could give this six stars, one of the best books I think I've ever read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The love of place. The love of family. Sometimes you have to pick. Sometimes they become so intertwined that the choice doesn't matter and the love becomes stronger after the place and people fade. Feeding a fascination of Shanghai, my friend Elyse recommended this book. Though coming in at just under 400 pages, it took me a few days to finish the book because I savored every word of this beautifully crafted novel. If I could time travel, I would visit Shanghai before the Japanese invaded. This The love of place. The love of family. Sometimes you have to pick. Sometimes they become so intertwined that the choice doesn't matter and the love becomes stronger after the place and people fade. Feeding a fascination of Shanghai, my friend Elyse recommended this book. Though coming in at just under 400 pages, it took me a few days to finish the book because I savored every word of this beautifully crafted novel. If I could time travel, I would visit Shanghai before the Japanese invaded. This book fed my fascination and expanded my interest. I foresee a rabbit hole of Shanghai memoirs opening to me. While not a current book or best seller, this is the best book I have read in 2014. Even if you have no interest in Shanghai, the story of this family will captivate you as you become lost in a wonderful, complex human story only an author that is a master of her craft can weave.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I loved this book so much. Very interesting, dynamic characters and a poignant storyline that tears at the heart strings. (I tend to love that type of story.) It's a great fictional memoir and gives an interesting look at Shanghai during some of its historically difficult moments. So worth the read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    This was a fascinating book. We begin in Shanghai in about 1930, where Anna, 5 years old, lives with her parents. Father Joseph, the son of missionaries, was born in China and has become a millionaire in the go-go rough and tumble of 30's Shanghai. Eve, the mother, is a beautiful, charming Southern California transplant, who seems to have fit in to the high society and privilege of her husband's world in China. The times are about to catch up with with the family as powerful historical and This was a fascinating book. We begin in Shanghai in about 1930, where Anna, 5 years old, lives with her parents. Father Joseph, the son of missionaries, was born in China and has become a millionaire in the go-go rough and tumble of 30's Shanghai. Eve, the mother, is a beautiful, charming Southern California transplant, who seems to have fit in to the high society and privilege of her husband's world in China. The times are about to catch up with with the family as powerful historical and political events in China overtake their life. Joseph is revealed as a difficult, charismatic, impossible, charming man, central to Anna's life, and as things come apart in Shanghai his foibles and flaws become more and more apparent. The book covers the period from 1930 to 1981, as Eve and Anna leave Shanghai for Pasadena, and Joseph stays in his beloved Shanghai to face whatever comes, believing the turmoil is only temporary and that things will work out in the end. Eve and Anna make a life for themselves near Eve's mother, and the communication between Eve and Joseph is sporadic and worrisome to both Eve and Anna. As the years go by, Joseph eventually comes to Pasadena but can't make a life for himself there and returns again to Shanghai, just in time for the takeover of the Communist Party there. The novel is filled with horrific political and social events in China and paints a vivid picture of life in Shanghai during tumultuous times of huge historical significance. But the story also deals intimately with the dynamics of this family, the meaning and importance of stability and parental love in the life of a child, and the power of forgiveness. A wonderful read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    I loved this book! Firstly because of the amazing detail of life in Shanghai before WWII and after. The writer's father had been born and grew up in China and loved that country so deeply that he could not tear himself away from it. He was a man who could not resist a deal whatever the moral implications and thus made a fortune for himself. But his inability to read the seriousness of life in China through the Japanese invasion and then later when the communists came to power left him serving I loved this book! Firstly because of the amazing detail of life in Shanghai before WWII and after. The writer's father had been born and grew up in China and loved that country so deeply that he could not tear himself away from it. He was a man who could not resist a deal whatever the moral implications and thus made a fortune for himself. But his inability to read the seriousness of life in China through the Japanese invasion and then later when the communists came to power left him serving time in prison under both regimes, nearly at the cost of his life in both occasions. The story though is deeper because it also follows his daughter's life and how she lost all love and respect for him and how after many years of denial of his existence he re-entered her life and how she slowly came to love him, if reluctantly, and let him back into her life. At the end of his life she finds his journals that he had kept and left for her with the hope that she would be able to understand a little of how his life had been. An emotional read but I really loved it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    I knew the minute i finished the first page that i was going to love this book. What a great setting 1930's free-wheeling Shanghai was to place this story of father-daughter love and the effects that missed chances and poor judgement can have on a family. This story frankly broke my heart, but did bring home the fact that children rarely know the real stories of their parents lives.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Waite

    A story about home and how home is always in our hearts and minds, how it shapes and defines us, even if we are far away from it. Also a story about family relationships, how things not nurtured can shrivel and fall apart and the long journey back toward redemption. Anna grows up in Shanghai with her rich and glamorous young parents. Shanghai is booming, exotic and full of possibilities! Anna's father loves this city...it is HIS city, always and forever, even during the Japanese occupation (in A story about home and how home is always in our hearts and minds, how it shapes and defines us, even if we are far away from it. Also a story about family relationships, how things not nurtured can shrivel and fall apart and the long journey back toward redemption. Anna grows up in Shanghai with her rich and glamorous young parents. Shanghai is booming, exotic and full of possibilities! Anna's father loves this city...it is HIS city, always and forever, even during the Japanese occupation (in which he was a prisoner of war) and he still loved it and wouldn't leave long after his wife and child had fled for safety. He continued to hold on to the Shanghai of the past when the Communists took over and he yet again became a political prisoner. Shanghai's history during this time period (1930's to 1950's) was rich and fascinating. The author did a wonderful job with the flawless historical details and elements. The family dynamic was also flawless...how Anna's father goes from a respected entrepreneur millionaire to fallen man who in the end (and far too late) realizes the importance of family. A beautiful story of tragedy, betrayal and ultimately redemption and forgiveness. I loved every second of it and couldn't read fast enough! Suburb 5 stars!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Had The Distant Land of My Father not been shelved in the fiction section of my library, it would have taken me many chapters to realize this was not a memoir. Caldwell writes about the settings so intimately that it is natural to assume she walked the very streets she is describing. Anna Shoene is a young China-born American living in Shang-hai in the years just preceding WWII. From her point of view, the world is exactly as it should be. Foreigners are welcomed and respected in Shang-hai, her Had The Distant Land of My Father not been shelved in the fiction section of my library, it would have taken me many chapters to realize this was not a memoir. Caldwell writes about the settings so intimately that it is natural to assume she walked the very streets she is describing. Anna Shoene is a young China-born American living in Shang-hai in the years just preceding WWII. From her point of view, the world is exactly as it should be. Foreigners are welcomed and respected in Shang-hai, her father is a wealthy entrepreneur, and she is surrounded by adults who love and adore her. For little Anna, nothing can go wrong. When Anna is seven, however, the Japanese invade China, and it is no longer safe for foreigners to remain. She is sent back to the United States with her mother, but her father, also a China-born American, decides to stay. This supposedly temporary separation is one that will last for most of Anna’s life. After her father’s death, Anna inherits diaries and letters that fill in the missing years and describe the horrors her father faced in Japanese-occupied China. It is clear from the beginning that Anna, the narrator, is not really the central character. Neither is the mother she admires or father she loves. The true heroine is Shanghai. This novel is a romance. The city is Anna’s first love and her father’s soul mate. The characters are shaped by the transformations of Shanghai as it moves from extraterritorial law to Japanese invasion to ownership by the Communist government. During the parts of the book set in Pasadena, the novel is askew. The author has made her readers fall in love with Shanghai as thoroughly as the characters. We long to return there. Each transition back to China is bittersweet. We realize Shanghai has changed drastically, but we accept it because we love her. The reader can even forgive Anna’s father his grave errors in judgment because we, like him, would do all we could to stay in this Shanghai.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Wachter

    Now that I am retired I have discovered that I can allow myself the pleasure of reading, right in the middle of the afternoon, or whenever I feel like it! I have joined a book group, which has introduced me to some wonderful new titles. This book is one of the book group selections, as well as the "Silicon Valley Reads" for this year. It is a wonderful story of Anna, whose early childhood is spent in luxury in Shanghai in the 1930's. Live changes for the worse with the Japanese takeover, but Now that I am retired I have discovered that I can allow myself the pleasure of reading, right in the middle of the afternoon, or whenever I feel like it! I have joined a book group, which has introduced me to some wonderful new titles. This book is one of the book group selections, as well as the "Silicon Valley Reads" for this year. It is a wonderful story of Anna, whose early childhood is spent in luxury in Shanghai in the 1930's. Live changes for the worse with the Japanese takeover, but Anna's father, an opportunistic businessman, refuses to leave. Anna and her mother return to southern California, where they make a new life for themselves; however Anna cannot lose the feeling that she was abandoned by her beloved father. This is beautifully written in a painterly style, with many details which transport the reader to Anna's experiences. The author is local, so she is speaking at many libraries in the area in February. I can't wait to hear her speak about her writing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    Wish I had read this book before I visited Shanghai!! A testament to how 'home' saturates our being. It was very touching to see a man trying to survive in the real world, all the while romanticizing it to what he thought it was, wanted it to be, or remembered it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rick Silva

    A fictional memoir of a father and daughter that starts off in Shanghai in the 1930s, on the eve of the Japanese occupation. Joseph Schoene is the son of American missionaries, born and raised in China, except for college in the US where he met and married his wife. Their daughter is the narrator, and the story follows the tumultuous relationship through separation, betrayal, and reconciliation. The characters felt very real and relatable, but what I enjoyed most about this story was the vividly A fictional memoir of a father and daughter that starts off in Shanghai in the 1930s, on the eve of the Japanese occupation. Joseph Schoene is the son of American missionaries, born and raised in China, except for college in the US where he met and married his wife. Their daughter is the narrator, and the story follows the tumultuous relationship through separation, betrayal, and reconciliation. The characters felt very real and relatable, but what I enjoyed most about this story was the vividly detailed descriptions of life in old Shanghai. Even when the story shifted to Los Angeles, the culture of Shanghai was always there in the background. The story leans sentimental, and a bit religious, toward the ending, but it comes to a satisfying, if slightly predictable conclusion. Some of the historical events were the same ones I read about earlier this year in Anya's War, and it was interesting comparing the two perspectives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jill Robbertze

    Wow, wow, wow!!! This book is a truly wonderful read !! The writing is excellent : from the well researched historical background oflife in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation and later under Communist rule to life in Los Angeles after WW2. The story is mostly about complex family relationships which is told so convincingly it reads like a memoir. I found the characters to be so true to life and totally believeable. A very solid 5 STARS !!!!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    the only redeeming feature of this book is its picturesque description of shanghai in the 1930's. it appears the author has gone through the trouble of researching and condensing hundreds of personal accounts and travelogues to distill for the reader a glimpse of china's romance. but what purpose for her meticulous descriptions of the going ons of the Bund street picturescape when in the end, this reader is left not caring for a soul in the novel. it is indeed romantic if one thinks looking in a the only redeeming feature of this book is its picturesque description of shanghai in the 1930's. it appears the author has gone through the trouble of researching and condensing hundreds of personal accounts and travelogues to distill for the reader a glimpse of china's romance. but what purpose for her meticulous descriptions of the going ons of the Bund street picturescape when in the end, this reader is left not caring for a soul in the novel. it is indeed romantic if one thinks looking in a sunset or a picture of the eiffel tower romantic. in this way, it may be useful for a traveler in route to the far east read the first half of the novel for a dry historical account and attain orientation of places and names as to decipher certain small talk overhead at hotel lobbies and bars. indeed, it is one notch up from an infllight magazine feature of a boring, sprawling, western metropolis. in order to add intrigue and romance, ms. caldwell added about 100 pages of far east travelogue betwixt the pages. laden within these pages are distant innuendos and winks of oriental political maneuvering. her attempt at political symbolism and second rate literature is heavy handed at best. the father's choice of affair with the uncomely chinese lady over his first rate yet waspy, angeleno wife shows he would rather haunt the streets of a mysterious, dirty, war torn and wanton city than be boxed off in the sterilized compartment of southern california. this has been done so many times and more dexterously--though different cities and different wars. i was still optimistic that ms. caldwell had some new insights but in the end, it was exasperating to read, and the book left the reader cold and distant to the lives of these characters. i thought it was a dirty trick to write a modern yet reflective book about living in china, but nothing really of the people or their soul. i was expecting more and all i got from ms. caldwell is that the lot of these people , besides her immediate servants, were dull, pockmarked simpletons who can be so easily manipulated by the wind of fate. as i watch the olympic opening ceremony, i thought a modern writer could provide more insight than this. in fact, deep down, i ponder if ms. caldwell really despises the whole lot of orientals and how a prejudiced viewpoint can be touted by the spokesman for multiculturalism, namely Oprah, in her book club.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lianne

    Since meeting the author in person a few weeks ago when she spoke about her more recent book "City of Tranquil Light," I made a point of seeking out Bo Caldwell's first novel, "The Distant Land of My Father." Both works have been inspired by family stories and journals. This one was based on an uncle's experience in Shanghai during the 1930's until after the Communists came to power. The narrator is Anna, whose charmed childhood unfolds within the expat community of Shanghai. Her family lives in Since meeting the author in person a few weeks ago when she spoke about her more recent book "City of Tranquil Light," I made a point of seeking out Bo Caldwell's first novel, "The Distant Land of My Father." Both works have been inspired by family stories and journals. This one was based on an uncle's experience in Shanghai during the 1930's until after the Communists came to power. The narrator is Anna, whose charmed childhood unfolds within the expat community of Shanghai. Her family lives in a gracious residence with Chinese servants. Part of the social whirl of the glamorous 1930's, her mother is elegant and father a confident "China-born" son of missionaries. He always seems to land on his feet making his living as a "fixit" man in Shanghai, where he does deals in every direction with both the Japanese and Chinese. Anna adores her father and sees Shanghai through his eyes as an exotic and best place in the world. However, her father, so confident and convinced that he can weather any challenge, refuses to see the true danger of their situation and believes he can stay no matter who is in power. Anna and her mother return to Pasadena when the Japanese first occupy Shanghai but her father remains behind. Caldwell writes evocatively about Anna's impressions of Pasadena and her anguished feelings of loyalty for her father in spite of his misjudgments. His street smarts cannot save him from imprisonment by the Japanese, and later by the Maoist forces. Thanks to the support of her grandmother and mother, she recovers from her disappointments and builds a stable life in spite of his absence. She marries and becomes a mother before her father returns, now a different man. The author depicts with grace and honesty how their relationship evolves into mutual acceptance. The style of the writing is at once honest and sweet and the depictions of Shanghai and Pasadena linger.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    My Goodreads friend Chrissie recommended this book to me, and from the opening pages I was hooked. My father was a millionaire in Shanghai in the 1930s. Polo ponies, a Sikh chauffeur, a villa on eight acres in Hungjao, in the western part of the city. Nights out with my mother at the Cercle Sportif Francais, the Venus Cafe, the Cathay Hotel, the Del Monte - these were the details of his life. He was also an insurance salesman and a smuggler, an importer-exporter and a prisoner, a borrower and a My Goodreads friend Chrissie recommended this book to me, and from the opening pages I was hooked. My father was a millionaire in Shanghai in the 1930s. Polo ponies, a Sikh chauffeur, a villa on eight acres in Hungjao, in the western part of the city. Nights out with my mother at the Cercle Sportif Francais, the Venus Cafe, the Cathay Hotel, the Del Monte - these were the details of his life. He was also an insurance salesman and a smuggler, an importer-exporter and a prisoner, a borrower and a spender, leading, much of the time, a charmed life, always seeming to play the odds and for a long time coming out on top. Anna tells a story of her father that is a fascinating look at Shanghai just prior and during World War II, in addition to a heartbreaking memoir of a child's need to understand and forgive a man who would love a city more than his daughter. This is Bo Caldwell's debut novel and it is truly fantastic. The sights and smells of Shanghai come alive as history unfolds and lives are broken. I am grateful to Chrissie for recommending this marvelous novel and look forward to reading more by this author. 4 1/2 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I've been reading a lot of books lately about China and their culture and I find them very interesting. This is also the story of a family, the love between a girl and her father, their separation and reuniting. There's a lot of history about things that happened during the war, during the time before China was a Communist nation and how things changed. It's a very good book, I found it to be very emotional.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    I found the Shanghai parts of this novel to be wonderfully interesting. I had zero interest in the life of the Los Angeles adolescent.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sassa

    Five stars and more! Wonderful book. So well-written. It had me right from the start. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The story begins in 1930s Shanghai, carries on through Ww2 and then ends with the communism takeover. California and USA culture during this time is also involved, but on a secodnary level. It would be a great book club choice. So much to discuss: families, war-time sacrifices and fears, choices, memories, penitence and forgiveness. There is wonderful Five stars and more! Wonderful book. So well-written. It had me right from the start. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The story begins in 1930s Shanghai, carries on through Ww2 and then ends with the communism takeover. California and USA culture during this time is also involved, but on a secodnary level. It would be a great book club choice. So much to discuss: families, war-time sacrifices and fears, choices, memories, penitence and forgiveness. There is wonderful character-development. Caldwell is also able to employ highly effective descriptions to activate all five of the senses. The smells, sounds and tastes actually “step out of the book.” Heartbreaking love story but very realistic.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone without reservation. It is a beautiful story beginning in 1930's Shanghai and tells of a father's love for China, his many mistakes, and finally his redemption. Beautifully told.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Riveting story told by Anna the child of Eve and Joe- Americans in China in 1938 on the cusp of WWII. Her father stays as mother and daughter flee to California to wait for Joe who does not leave China and is then trapped. A novel about choices, decisions, family and how we are shaped by our parents. Excellent read full of fascinating history of China in the mid- twentieth century.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This book is the reason I have not accomplished much in the last few days. So good--

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Just loved this book. A story of parents and daughter, lives lived but not understood. Loved the characters and the story.

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