The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt
Benfu felt his old normal slipping away, one jade animal at a time, and wished for things to go back to the way they had been (55)
This book will bring up emotions you thought were hidden beneath the surface, at least it did for me, on the subway this morning going to work. It is a true embodiment of the idea that the personal is political and showcases the ways in which we fight injustice on our personal levels. The struggles of humanity and the daily grind of oppression are brought to the forefront. The Palest Ink is, at its heart, a story of friendship. Two boys grow up throughout the Cultural Revolution in China and must navigate their own personal challenges and moments of rebellion. Throughout their lives they remain loyal friends and this story maps their journey through love, education, and family obligations.
The Palest Ink – a tiny drop of truth in an enormous barrel of injustice (231)
Written in a simple, but moving style, this story highlights their dilemmas and fights to be honorable and courageous in a world that is cowardly and inhumane. The characters are fascinating and even though I did not like all of them, hardship can force the worst out of us. There is too much of a tendency to turn inwards and to forget our duty to our fellow humans. So Pony Boy and Benfu’s decency are even more significant. The Palest Ink asks us, “what are we if we are not honest to our friends? If we do not show human decency and kindness?” The answer, it would seem, is in the brave hearts of young adults who will not stand by silently and whose sacrifices seem too tragic for such youth.
It was enough that he’d found companionship – a voice in the dark to let him know he was not alone, that he continued to breathe, was even still human and not some trapped and desperate animal (327)
This story is inspired by actual events and is an event that is so rarely discussed, at least in my school. The voice throughout the book is humble, but hopeful, and now I must read the series! This is a prequel to the Scavengers Daughters series which continues Benfu’s story. The ending was tragic, even though I could see it coming, but it had to be that way. Otherwise the book would have betrayed the cruelty of the times and the utter injustice. The characters’ development as well as their emotions made the book as moving as it was. Their desire to fight for what is right, despite the odds, ultimately defines their friendship and lives.
Could he possibly live up to the gifts he’d been given? (387)
If historical novels interest you, or books with unthinkable odds and courageous, and surprising, protagonists fascinate you, please pick this book up. You can pick it up here and check out the author’s website here. I read this for free from Amazon Prime Reading, so if you have that, I would give you that tip. If not, this cover is beautiful, so you will not regret it!
I am now really interested in books about China and wondering, do you have any recommendations?
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