Absolutely mind blowing. Spencer Wise 's writing style is simply mind boggling. What a fantastic story that invoked the entire array of reading emotions, joy. wonder, excitement, worry, culture taboo and beliefs. It is exhilarating to finally get an insite on Chinese cultures, and it reminds me of a troubled era, the photo of defiant young rights activists standing up and raging against the "machine", political atmosphere, absolutely resolved that he and the other protesters refused to stand down. Spencer's book gave me insight to another time and place. I was in the story..... In my opinion,.....M.W, aka awesome Granny
Life always seems to be in a state of flux. As we grow, we develop relationships, some of them tenuous which have a pull and tug connection between our selves and our world in which we live.
Alex Cohen is a young Jewish man living in Southern China. He and his father own a shoe factory and have a relationship that can be considered at times contentious. Alex's dad is the boss. His word is law and though at times his words to Alex are funny, they often hurt. Alex is in a relationship with a Chinese revolutionary, a young girl who works in the factory. She and others are looking to change China. They want a more democratic form of leadership and as Alex assumes and becomes the head of the company, he sees how the workers are being exploited.
Alex loves his father and yet when he sees the climate the workers are forced to be in, and their plight, it sets him on a collision course against the father who has always been his rock. Alex runs up against the idealism of what he wants to see happening and the love of a father and the heritage he carries. He also finds himself in a dangerous situation with the powers that be.
Alex's father is ambitious, wanting success to be theirs, always striving for more, often disregarding how one does acquire that more. China is portrayed, twenty five years after Tiananmen Square, as being a place ripe for democracy yet controlled by a few who would use any means to keep their position. It is a place ripe for change and as Alex himself fells change coming, he witnesses not only a country, a people wanting to so embrace human rights and needs, but he himself grabbing onto change within the person he strives to be.
Beautifully written, this story unfolds among a world that is changing too fast for some. Can Alex find that freedom he longs for, freedom from his father, freedom from heritage, and freedom that will not shatter everything? Can he save the relationship he has had with his father and with the young Chinese revolutionary, Ivy? "Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it's better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together." Can China also find their way in recognizing the human in every person who lives and works within their massive country?
Thank you to Spencer Wise, Hanover Publishing, and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book. It was quite an interesting look into a world where freedom is not really free.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I recommend it to each and everyone. I’m usually a big reader of historical fiction, but this one was different for me; it was more of a literary tale but I didn’t mind it.
I love how Mr. Wise’s knowledge of shoemaking came out and I adored his rich and thorough descriptions of everything. By everything, I mean, everything. His is a talent that shouldn’t be ignored. This is a vibrant book; one that will literally create a world around you. The message of enlightenment and change are uplifting; the descriptions of how poorly treated the employees of the shoe factory are treated is heart-wrenching. Can you imagine someone standing over you and giving you a hard time for an unnecessary movement? Those may cost time; precious production time! Yes, you’ll read about that. I felt for Alex, our protagonist, who is dealing with not only trying to live up to his father’s standards, he’s an expat living in a new country and he’s also Jewish, which makes things a challenge.
Seriously, you should read this. I’m not doing this justice. And this just a debut novel. If Mr. Wise can spin a novel like this now? How much more fantastic can he get as time goes on?
If the opening paragraph of this novel doesn't hook you, you're not alive. Well, maybe that's a little strong, but I love great openings and this is one of the funniest I've read in a long time. There are so many good things to say about this book, but I'll focus on one.
If you've worked in a family business, or been close to anyone who has, you know how complicated it can be between the generations. You know there's joy and love and loyalty and pride. But there's also disappointment, guilt, and shame. But, really, there's a lot of comedy as long as you're willing to step back and see the human folly that is "the family business."
Perhaps my love for this book comes from how easily I identified with it. I grew up in a family business (and in a Jewish family, no less): three generations of pride, complexity, love, questionable financial dealings between fathers and sons, brothers and brothers, stress, generosity, the whole catastrophe as Zorba the Greek puts it.
But when it was all over, when the store that opened in the 40s closed forever in the 90s, sure, there was some sadness, but mostly there was family. That's the thing, family businesses are not about business; they're about family.
And I think that's what's so worth exploring in this book whether you've been around family businesses or not. Good books somehow capture very wide swaths of human experience. I think they do this by creating strong emotions we can identify with. That's where the universality comes from. That's how we relate.
In the end, just as I wouldn't spend 10 hours telling you about my family's business (I'd tell you about how it felt), it's the emotions in this book that make it such a satisfying read.