Book Reviews

Review: Their Divine Fires by Wendy Chen

If you love intergenerational stories about family and memory this is for you. Their Divine Fires explores what legacy and the past we pass along. Do we share the pain, the wounds, our mistakes? What pieces of ourselves do our family never get to know? Keep reading this book review of Their Divine Fires for my full thoughts.


In 1917, at the dawn of the Chinese Revolution, Yunhong grows up in the southern China countryside and falls in love with the son of a wealthy landlord–but on the night of her wedding, her brother destroys the marriage before it has lasted even a day. Yunhong’s daughter Yuexin will never know her father. She passes that sorrow on to her daughters Hongxing and Yonghong, who come of age in the years following Mao’s death, battling the push and pull of political forces as they forge their own paths. Each generation guards its secrets, leaving Emily, living in contemporary America, to piece together what actually happened between her mother and her sister, and to understand the weight of their shared history.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Their Divine Fires is about their struggles and loves across times and generations. It’s stories about people who survive rebellion, war, and unrest. About love, arranged marriages, and the loss of our loves. It’s about legacy, names, and what they mean. But what happens when we have to disavow them? There are big changes which coincide with these moments, on the precipice of a spark of igniting, and changing across the world.

People caught in the crossfire of rebellion, of changing loyalties, of decisions we make because we think they’re right. The changing mantras of our lives. Their Divine Fires manages to be tender, about the trauma of not feeling good enough, and asks us about how stories are pass down – or not at all. While family stories always get me, I love stories about siblings and here – especially with the gaps – they were particularly intricate. We see the complex relationship of what home means and witness the stories refracted over three generations.

Find Their Divine Fires on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, Blackwells, & Libro. fm.


Do you have a favorite intergenerational family story?

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