Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Here’s the deal: When a book gives valuable clues and important details immediately in the first few chapters and layers numerous subplots upon one another and then in the end, the plot and all the subplots get tied tightly together and all those clues and details in the opening chapters appear significantly more important than originally believed… Well, like I said, here’s the deal: That drives me nuts. Really. Completely and utterly crazy. Because after finishing the book, and after, like, every other chapter in the closing pages, I think, “Why didn’t I see that coming?!?”

And I absolutely love it.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of those books. At first it seems a simple story. Minli lives with her parents in a small, poor village beside the Jade River at the foot of Fruitless Mountain. In order to seek a way to bring fortune to her family and village, Minli leaves. She wants to find Never-Ending Mountain and ask its resident, the Old Man of the Moon, how she can change her family’s fortune. Basically, that’s the story.

Added throughout the novel are stories told by Minli’s father, fellow travelers, characters she meets on the way, and Minli herself. But they’re not just stories added to color the seemingly simple novel. The first story, The Story of Fruitless Mountain, begins on page four, and attentive readers will recall it at the book’s conclusion.

There’s also plenty of action. Secret entrances through hidden gates, dangerous encounters and daring escapes, gifts from kings and statues that come alive, dragons, talking fish, overprotective but easily-fooled monkeys … and Minli’s journey is filled with them.

Author Grace Lin has taken the folktales and fairy-tales from her Chinese heritage and woven them into this book. The author’s note describes how, while she originally dismissed her Asian heritage, she ultimately embraced the stories and began to invent storylines, add details, and fit them together into what finally became Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. She closes the author’s note with “I hope there is magic in it for you as well.”

There is.

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