My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Actual Rating: 2.0

My Half of the Sky follows Li Hui, a modern Chinese woman who lives by Chairman Mao’s rules. When she falls in love with a man that her family disapproves of, Li Hui must choose between doing her duty for her family or following her heart.

I felt like the biggest issue for me was the plot. This book is 500 pages, and for the first 75% I just felt like it was trudging along, not really saying anything. It felt like nothing but a compilation of scenes; there would be a conflict, the conflict would be resolved, and the story would just moved on. For most of the book, I was wondering if I was missing something big, because there had been plenty of opportunities for something to happen and tie in with the main conflict, but by the three-quarter mark everything that had happened so far seemed like a disconnected jumble of events. There were scenes where Li Hui tangled with snakeheads, had trouble finding work, and talked with other characters, but everything just felt like a filler. By the time I got to the ending, I realized that the main conflict was just that Li Hui had fallen in love with someone her parents disapproved of. And while I felt like the ending did its job and ended the story, I just felt like the 500 pages I had just read was such a pointless and unnecessary path to get there.

I felt extremely disconnected from the characters as well. Li Hui, the main character, was extremely naive, and while I tolerated it at the beginning because I understood that it left room for character development, she did not improve much until the ending. I understand that it was almost impossible for her to be any other way, considering the way she was brought up, but as the book continued, I just grew increasingly frustrated.

I felt a disconnect with the writing style as well. I understand that the author had immense experience with Asian culture, having lived there for many years, but even before I had researched the author, the writing style had felt forced, as if the book was not from somebody who had lived the story, but from someone writing about a character who lived worlds away. Some of the writing felt like such hard-on broken English – kind of like what the stereotypical Chinese accent would seem like on paper, and it just seemed a little inauthentic and distracting.

I found numerous editing mistakes in the story as well, such as incorrect punctuation or even a random little square that just appeared out of nowhere in the text.

While I do very much respect the author for commenting on the cultural differences in modern society, I feel like the book could have been executed in a much more real and efficient way.

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