cover image Three Souls

Three Souls

Janie Chang. Morrow, $16 trade paper (470p) ISBN 978-0-06-229321-3

In Chang’s moving fiction debut, the ghost of a young woman, Song Leiyin, recalls the civil war period of the late 1920s and early 1930s in China. As the narrative begins, Leiyin is observing her own funeral and has no memory of her past life. Her three souls—yin, yang, and hun—help her begin to recover her memories so that she can atone for her wrongdoings and earn a chance for reincarnation. The smart but naïve daughter of a wealthy man, Leiyin’s troubles begin when she falls for Yen Hanchin, a charming, self-serving socialist. He encourages Leiyin to defy her father and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. When her disobedience is discovered, her father angrily betroths her to a man she’s never met, the barely literate Lee Baizhen. Chang deftly conveys how the initially despairing Leiyin comes to accept her kind-hearted husband, particularly after they have a daughter, Weilan. Hanchin’s reappearance, however, shatters Leiyin’s peaceful existence. As the book nears its suspenseful climax, Leiyin struggles to protect her daughter as well as her own soul. Though Chang slips into cliché when describing Leiyin’s relationship with Hanchin, the majority of her novel bristles with freshness and heart. Agent: Jill Marr, Dijkstra Agency. (Mar.)