Harper Collins|August 12, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-44342-390-8
Leiyin has to make a choice: Should she save her only child or forever relinquish her own afterlife?
Civil war China is fractured by social and political change. Behind the magnificent gates of the Song family estate, however, none of this upheaval has touched Leiyin, a spoiled and idealistic teenager. But when Leiyin meets the captivating left-wing poet Hanchin, she defies her father and learns a harsh reality: that her father has the power to dictate her fate. Leyin’s punishment for disobedience leads to exile from her family, an unwanted marriage and ultimately a lover’s betrayal – followed by her untimely death. Now a ghost, Leiyin must make amends to earn entry to the afterlife. But when her young daughter faces a dangerous future, Leiyin has to make a heart-wrenching choice.
Three Souls is a rare book which would not only be a perfect book club pick, but is a page-turning, fantastic read. This is a debut novel but you’d never know it. Janie Chang writes like a well-seasoned author.
Leiyin has passed on at a young age and leaves behind a young daughter. She suddenly realizes that she is sitting in the midst of her own funeral watching from above. Leiyin understands then that she has passed on and is now a ghost.
Unfortunately, she has been denied admittance to the afterlife because she has committed some wrongs during her lifetime and must somehow correct these wrongs before she can move on. Leiyin is accompanied by her three souls: her romantic yin soul, her very wise hun soul, and her scholarly yang soul. The three souls, along with Leiyin must figure out how she can right the wrongs or they’ll all be trapped in nothingness for eternity.
It was the very moment that the priest had said the last prayer and sealed her coffin closed that she woke up and floated upward in a slow moving drift of incense smoke. She stopped and was sitting in the rafter looking down at the attendees of her funeral.
The odd thing was that she had knowledge but no memories of her life.
As she peered down, she saw on the altar a wooden tablet gleaming with gold-painted characters that were actually carved right into the surface. What was printed into the tablet said: “Song Leiyin. Beloved Wife. Dutiful Daughter. She recognized that is was indeed her name.
The first time she noticed her three souls was when the priest had concluded his service. It was at that moment she saw the three bright sparks moving in the air net to her. The souls were small, red as paint, but knew inherently that they couldn’t be seen by the attendees of her funeral.
Leiyin notice a little girl dressed in white mourning robes with red rimmed eyes. Obviously this young one had been weeping. She suddenly recognized that this child was her daughter, Weilan. So startled at seeing her, Leiyin floated down beside the child and wrapped her in her arms, but she could not feel Weilan. The only thing she could do to comfort herself was to repeat the pet names she had called her daughter during her life.
The three souls then began chatting that Leiyin needed to understand why she was being held back from her afterlife and left floating, invisible, to everyone in the real world. Her yang soul spoke up and said Leiyan was still here because: “…she was responsible for a great wrong” that she needed to right.
Leiyin, immediately told her three souls that she didn’t remember anything about committing a great wrong and was certain she had not been any type of criminal during her lifetime.
The three souls then explained that she would relive her memories and only then would she understand her detention in this earthly realm, and what she must do to correct it. It was extremely important that Leiyan understand the damage she had done in her life. Only if she attained that goal would she ascend to her afterlife, along with her three souls. If she failed, she’d be stuck as a hungry ghost in between worlds forever. The three souls could not move on either without Leiyan.
The souls decided they should begin showing Leiyan her earthly life beginning when she was a teenager and attending a party. Suddenly she finds herself standing “on a street lined with sycamore trees and high, whitewashed walls.” In that moment she realizes that she is that girl. Leiyan then knew “everything about my life before that moment”, but knew nothing about what was to come.
The story of Leiyan’s life, as she observes, begins in Changchow, China in 1938.
I absolutely cannot say enough about this book. If I could rate it at 100 stars, I would!! Don’t miss out on this superbly crafted story. Thank you Ms. Chang for some of the best reading I’ve done in a while.