Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Third Son
Author: Julie Wu
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books (April 30, 2013)
In the middle of a terrifying air raid in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Saburo, the least-favored son of a Taiwanese politician, runs through a peach forest for cover. It’s there that he stumbles upon Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.
Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—and the fast-changing American West of the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Third Son is a richly textured story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.
In Saburo, debut author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character who is determined to fight for everything he needs and wants, from food to education to his first love. A sparkling and moving story, it will have readers cheering for a young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.
This is a really sad story to me. The reasoning being that due to family structure and generations of acting in a certain manner, we start the story with a boy who has never felt love. He is the third son and therefore nothing more than another mouth to feed. I would almost say he was treated inhumanely.
As we in the US make it a point to try to never show more affection to one child than another, Saburo knows right from the start he is not a favorite, nor really even cared about. He spends his entire youth hungry and beaten as his eldest brother has food, clothes, books... anything he wants.
Saburo finds love and marriage, only to discover his wife is also treated poorly and left to nearly die by his family when he miraculously has the opportunity to travel to America to make a better life for himself. Apparently her dowry, as wife of the third son, was not adequate enough to make them care about her either.
While Saburo does succeed in his goals in America, he continues to try and please the family that appears to not care whether he lives or dies.
While the story was heart-wrenching to me, I truly enjoyed being able to immerse myself into another land and time.......a whole other world than I've experienced. It was like a character driven history lesson.