5 / 5 Stars
Lyrical, evocative and occasionally lighthearted - a gorgeously rich story set in Malaysia.
I was recommended this book by my fellow review-buddy (thanks Karen!) - and when I first got started on it, I had no idea what to expect. Which is sometimes the best way to approach a book; with zero preconceptions!
It's a two-fold narrative. One focuses on Ren, a young house-servant sent on a mission to retrieve his dead master's finger. The other focuses on Ji Lin; a woman who is stuck working as a dancer in a shady club, just to pay off her mother's debts. Then one day, she's given a pickled finger in a jar, which is when her story starts to merge with Ren's...
The main thing I LOVED about this book was the way it depicted Malaysia. It captured all the personality and colour of the country, in an effortless, totally readable way. In each scene, I felt I was there with the characters; even the moments when it slipped into magical realism.
The characters were great too. There was a definite sense of traditional Malaysian values clashing with more modern opinions; particularly in relation to the role of women in society. It felt like the main characters were all put on a fast-paced collision course, until their inevitable conclusion, and this worked really well in driving the plot onwards.
I think magical realism was very deftly woven into this book too. I'd say overall, the book felt 'realistic', but the hints of the after-life and superstition really gave this book an edge. As for the were-tiger myth - wowzers! I loved it.
Definitely one to read, folks - I highly recommend it.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.