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Sky Burial by Xinran

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.

Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husband’s death.

In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wen’s journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.

The View:

I have not still read Xinran’s first book ‘The Good Women of China’ though it has been on my never-ending TBR pile. Sky Burial is an astounding tale to say the least. I enjoyed every aspect of reading and feeling this book. You can’t help but delve deep into the story of Shu Wen and it is not surprising that Xinran felt a compelling need to tell this tale.

Just 100 days after being married to the love of her life, Shu Wen receives a letter stating that her husband, an Army doctor is dead. With barely any details about the events leading to his death, Shu Wen believed that he was still alive and went in search of him. She reaches Tibet but is separated from her unit and spends the next few decades with nomadic Tibetans and a friend she made along the way. She loses her friend and a lot more during her stay there but gains love, trust and hope.

This is a stunning tale of unending love, belief and sorrow. Shu Wen is remarkable and her tenacity adorable. The writing and details are at many places sparse but they convey the message and that works well enough for this tale. An epic love story is how the book has been described and that is exactly what it is. When the actual fate of her husband was revealed I realized that I was not prepared for it, I re-read that chapter a couple of times hoping that it would change.

Rated a 5 on 5. This book is 200 pages of stunning story and well-played emotions. Keep a box of tissues while reading this book as chances are you will definitely need it.