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Reader Review: "Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden"

by Anthony Conty (Parkville, MD): "Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden" by Zhuqing Li tells the story of two sisters who end up on opposite sides of the Chinese Civil War of the 1930s but still succeed in life. However, like any war book worth its salt, you do not take sides and recognize the hardship of finding out that you and your sibling now live in separate countries for reasons that are neither your fault nor your concern.
Jun takes a teaching job in Taiwan and sides with the Nationalists, while her sister Hong marries a bigwig in the Communist Party and cuts off all communication with Jun, as remaining neutral is not an option. Both women start as somewhat apolitical, but Jun finds an opportunity to write speeches for a top member of the National Party, and leaving the island becomes an impossibility during the war.
Min and Jun's marriage becomes complicated when Min's son from a previous marriage returns after showing signs of sympathizing with the Nationalists and receiving a beating because of it, putting his father in danger for giving him money. On the other hand, Hong saves lives and becomes a national hero until people learn of her connections to someone from the "other side" and use that as an excuse to ransack her home.
The Nationalist/Communist debate could go on all day, and the paranoid "re-education" system of the Communists will frighten you. Still, you cannot primarily relate to a world where someone takes someone's medical license away, forcing them to farm. So Jun and Hong find ways to make their situation work for them, which ends up more inspiring than sad in a land where women have limited opportunities.
I did not know much about this conflict; it shocked me that some of my friends' parents lived through it. But unfortunately, the United States did not seem to have a complete grasp on what side they were on at times. Jun and Hong make great heroes, though, as they find ways to help out their fellow beings in a time when their superiors want to dictate their every move. Those looking for success with business and medical innovation will find inspiration.

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