E-book copy provided by author
I'll start by mentioning the fact that I've worked on this book. Ahhh, you might say; she's biased. Not in the least. I'm nothing if not honest, and won't wax lyrical about a book I didn't enjoy. Had that been the case, this review would not be here - at all. My thoughts, views or comments hereof have not been influenced in any manner, shape or form. Just because I work on a book, does not mean I will like it (the story, characters and so on), and I won't force myself to like a book either to please an author. I've never done that, and I won't ever do it. Those who know me, know this to be fact.
I'm actually working backwards here, as I've read the third book in this trilogy first, 'Land of Hope', which I absolutely loved. So, I wondered how I'd feel about starting with the first. I'm very pedantic in the sense that if I read a series, I won't start with anything but the first book. This time, because of being part of and hosting a blog tour for Junying Kirk, the third it was.
Although I believe each one can be read as a stand-alone, by reading the first one now has enlightened me further as to how, precisely, Pearl Zhang's life started out. Pearl grew up during Chairman Mao's cultural revolution, and what a time this was. What makes Ms. Kirk's books special is the fact that the she has first hand knowledge, and experience, in regards to what she's writing about. It completely comes across, so much so, I felt like I'd been sent back in time to a country I've never visited mind you - China - and learnt an insurmountable amount of knowledge regarding its people, way of life and culture. To say I wasn't shocked with some poignant snippets, would be lying. We all, within our own cultures, have rules (laws) and set standards at to how we live (and in some cases, as to how we should live) and perceive the world, but before China 'changed' and became more 'open' and 'free', wow, I do believe I'd have wanted to get out as much as Pearl and others wanted to. And, she did - but not without struggles, determination, hard work and I felt, a broken heart due to having had to leave her daughter behind.
The men in Pearl's life? All users as far as I'm concerned, with one exception. The one person Pearl, I believe, truly loved at this time in her life, she couldn't have. In China, especially at that age, she didn't have a choice but to obey her parents. I can't even begin to explain to you how wonderful reading this was, albeit sad most of time. At least, that's how I felt. I keep telling Ms. Kirk that it's about time she stops making me cry. I do smile throughout as well, but the severity and real issues concerning not only Pearl, but her family, are ingrained deeply in my heart.
The first half of the book takes part in China (my favourite), with the second half in Scotland and then the UK. Vastly different worlds, vastly different traditions yet why this book is perfectly titled 'The Same Moon'. We all live under the same moon, but said cultures, traditions and everyday life are poles and oceans apart in more ways than one. Pearl managed to cross all these barriers, accomplishing precisely what she set out to do. It all came with a price, though, but life isn't all sweet dreams and fields filled with roses. Often times, to be able to move forward, something will always be left behind.
Although Pearl (the heroine in this book) is someone I like, there are times she shows her imperfections. It's the way it should be - no one is perfect. I felt she showed her imperfection more in regards to the men in her life. Those she wanted, and those who forced themselves upon her. Pearl is strong, yet weak in other ways. A few men got away with a heck of a lot. What upset me was the fact that Pearl kept a lot of the bad stuff to herself, but then, who would really have done anything had she voiced such accusations? At that point in time, nobody. I can't state with conviction how I'd have reacted, because I was never in her situation. Thank goodness. She rose above it all though, and isn't that the way of the world? What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger? Pearl is a testament to what a person, a body, a soul can withstand.
This is literary fiction at its most interesting and best. I, for one, never thought that the plight of immigrants from China to elsewhere in the world was riddled with so much hardship, although I'm an immigrant myself. I guess having had family in the country we now live in helped in more ways than one. We had someone to look out for us. Pearl? She had a few scholars and friends with her, but ultimately no family.
What I think makes this book even more special is the simple fact that you follow Pearl's journey from her early childhood to the adult she's become. I have yet to read the second book 'Trials of Life', so am not able to comment on this, but I can tell you that by 'Land of Hope', Pearl is someone I'd wholeheartedly welcome in my house - without question. I'd then pick her brain for yet more information.
It's deeply compelling reading. Read it. I loved it.