cover image Peach Blossom Spring

Peach Blossom Spring

Melissa Fu. Little, Brown, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-28673-2

Spanning eight decades, Fu’s poignant debut opens in 1938, as recently widowed Meilin and her three-year-old son, Renshu, flee their home in the Hunan Province of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Initially traveling with relatives to avoid Japanese bombings, Meilin and Renshu get separated from the group. After the war, as Communism takes hold of China in the late 1940s, the mother and son escape to Taiwan, where Meilin works as a maid and Renshu focuses on his education. In 1960, Renshu leaves Taiwan and his mother behind for graduate school at Northwestern University, entering this new chapter as “Henry.” He builds a life in America, starting both a career and family. Meanwhile, Meilin reconnects with her brother-in-law, who tries to woo her into marriage. Fu spends the first half of the novel ping-ponging between mother and son, shuttling them through 20 years of tragic struggle. As their stories diverge, the author devotes long sections to each protagonist, slowing the frenetic pace to focus more on character development, which yields a stronger second half. The result is an affecting if somewhat scattershot tale of love, loss, estrangement, and heritage. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Mar.)