Unbound is an epic generational story set in Shanghai. The story is told from two different characters and two different time periods. It starts off in the mid 1970s with Ting, a young girl in communist China. She learns that her grandmother is going to coming to visit from America. Ting and her parents prepare for weeks to get their small apartment ready and all the food prepared for grandma’s arrival. She’s never met her grandmother before and it’s been over 20 years since her mother has seen her own mother.
So many questions are raised. Why is the grandma in America? Why hasn’t she seen her daughter in over 20 years? How did she get to America and why did she leave her daughter behind?
Over the course of the novel the history of the family is unraveled. The grandmother, Mini, tells her story in her own chapters starting in the 1930s. In the 30s she is a teenage girl in Shanghai, the daughter of a father who works for the British, educated, and beautiful. Mini navigates life in traditional China while yearning to be more modern, love, and eventually World War II with the Japanese invading.
Tragedies and hardships follow Mini’s family over the years and lead up to Ting’s life. Each time Mini comes to visit over the years she tells Ting more about what happened with her life during those years all the way up to when she leaves China. By the end, young Ting is graduating college and takes her grandmother and mother’s lives into consideration as well as the oppressive control China has over its people when deciding what to do with her future.
The novel was so good and I was enthralled from start to finish. I really felt for Mini throughout the novel and became so invested in her story. I only wish that more questions were answered at the end. Some things were unresolved and I really wanted a happy ending to those loose threads. I suppose it’s realistic for things to be left uncertain or unsolved, but I’m a sucker for a complete happy ending. So the ending wasn’t bad, it’s just that I wanted more.
Despite that, I really loved this novel and I hope Brumfield continues to write!
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