Chai-Lin’s story begins when his name is still Saburo. As a child in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, he studies in Japanese and has a Japanese name. After World War II, when he is still just a boy, Taiwan is taken over by China’s nationalist army led by Chiang Kai-shek. Taiwanese life turns back to Chinese, as does Chai-Lin’s name.
As the third son in his family, he is neither loved nor properly provided for. He might have accepted this as his lot in life if not for his uncle’s encouraging words and Chai-Lin’s love of a beautiful girl named Yoshiko. These two people spur him on to desire more for himself and his life, including going to school in the United States. The filial piety Chai-Lin’s family expects, in spite of how they treat him, is just one of the loyalties he must contend with as he makes a new life for himself.
Hopeful, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking, this novel leads readers through the identity crisis of both the young man and his homeland. (Algonquin)