The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Keli Estes
To start off, I have so many complex feelings associated with this novel and it has taken me some time to be able to even write this review. To begin simply, I loved this novel, the way the novel moved between each time period reminded me of the very first book like this I read; Arcardia (which is actually a play). I loved the way it explored Asian American history in the United States, which is a very fascinating feature of the story. Being an Asian American living in the US, this book’s revelation of the past from Mei Lin’s perspective, while not completely unheard of, was still shocking to read. Another thing I enjoyed (and also caused me to secretly beat my fists against my skull) was the familiar character struggle of doing the right thing in the face of adversity.
Now that you know the very brief bullet points of what I loved about the novel, let me give you a quick, but not revealing, plot synopsis. Inara, having recently inherited her aunt’s property on the west coast, while cleaning the property for sale, finds an artifact hidden from both plain sight and her family’s knowledge. Unknowingly Inara’s discovery sets her upon a road of not only self-discovery and acceptance, but also a family’s struggle that passes straight through the ages to do what is best for their family.
Unearthing this beautiful piece of silk creates both a bond and a bridge created by history that spans over years and cultures. Never failing to teach us a lesson, history is never sealed in ink, just another carefully crafted story that years later is susceptible to new inquiry. Not only does Inara connect emotionally with Mei Lin, but she involves us on the same journey and extends the bridge of history to us. The way the story was constructed was exquisite and I enjoyed the way that the both time periods were woven together.
The story is filled with tender moments that made my heart strings pull and tears run from my eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, subtle symbols, and beautiful mystery. Inara is complex and while the struggle against familial duty is well worn, it is so because the duty is so strong (and in this case, culturally ingrained). This book was obsessive and captivating. This book proves that history is never dead. It envelops and changes us, even as we witness the past from years in the future.
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