Four Treasures of the Sky

Flatiron. Apr. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781250811783. $27.99. F
DEBUT After seeing a road marker in Pierce, ID, stating “Chinese Hanging,” Zhang put an extraordinary amount of research into this historical novel with a touch of magical realism. The 1880s Chinese Exclusion Act permitted such barbaric behavior. In China, Daiyu had a happy childhood until her parents disappeared. Then she’s kidnapped and transported to a brutal San Francisco brothel. After escaping, she moves to Boise, ID, where she calls herself Jacob Li (for protection against the violent American men she encounters). Eventually, she meets two elderly Chinese men in Pierce who give her work in their store and a home. One day, she and the store owners are threatened and abused by a white shopkeeper. Things take a tragic turn when Daiyu, the old men, and another Chinese friend are falsely accused of murdering their “rival.” The sham trial adds to the horror and indignity they face as their lives are deemed expendable. In the epilogue, Zhang reveals that she finished the first draft of the book when COVID struck, when then-president Trump called it “The Chinese Virus.” This emboldened her to remind people of what the United States did—and is still capable of.
VERDICT Those who want to learn about a little-known incident in Chinese-American history will be enlightened by this moving debut.
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