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Publisher's Summary

The eagerly awaited English translation of award-winning author Zhang Ling’s epic and intimate novel about the devastation of war, forgiveness, redemption, and the enduring power of love.

On the day of the historic 1945 Jewel Voice Broadcast - in which Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces, bringing an end to World War II - three men, flush with jubilation, made a pact. After their deaths, each year on the anniversary of the broadcast, their souls would return to the Chinese village of their younger days. It’s where they had fought - and survived - a war that shook the world and changed their own lives in unimaginable ways. Now, seventy years later, the pledge is being fulfilled by American missionary Pastor Billy, brash gunner’s mate Ian Ferguson, and local soldier Liu Zhaohu.

All that’s missing is Ah Yan - also known as Swallow - the girl each man loved, each in his own profound way.

As they unravel their personal stories of the war, and of the woman who touched them so deeply during that unforgiving time, the story of Ah Yan’s life begins to take shape, woven into view by their memories. A woman who had suffered unspeakable atrocities, and yet found the grace and dignity to survive, she’d been the one to bring them together. And it is her spark of humanity, still burning brightly, that gives these ghosts of the past the courage to look back on everything they endured and remember the woman they lost.

©2017 Zhang Ling. Translation © 2020 by Shelly Bryant. (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"An ensemble of five gifted narrators splendidly conveys the haunting language and imagery in this WWII story." (AudioFile magazine)

“The range of narrators provide a unique voice for each viewpoint character.” (Book Riot)

"Few writers could bring a story about China and other nations together as seamlessly as Zhang Ling. I would suggest it is her merit as an author, and it is the value of her novels." (Mo Yan, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature)

What listeners say about A Single Swallow

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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love vs war

I received this book as a Goodreads ebook giveaway but opted to upgrade to an Audio book and I am glad I made that choice as I did not have to struggle with pronouncing many of the names and cities.

I enjoyed the story but it wasn't without problems. I would have liked to have heard the side of Wende/Stella. She endured so much that would have been more relatable told from her perspective instead of from a man's.

I have read a lot of books from this time period but never related to China and Japan so I learned a lot. I was not aware of where China stood during this time period.

I would recommend for anyone interested in historical fiction.

3 people found this helpful

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Sad Story

Its about a girl named swallow and story being told by 3 ghost, or 3 male friends who died. All 3 men told story from their point of view, and i hope that she was given at least a chapter or epilogue to tell her side. Its about missed chances, or how fate can change one’s course. Overall its a sad story

1 person found this helpful

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Between the Japanese and Nationalists

Excellent story of 4 lives entwined by fate, idealism, and human shortcomings. Credible. Told in a clear steadfast and credible voice. Haunting. When there is no right or wrong, no religious tradition and not even a culture of language to tether a person. An excellent illustration of Chinese prAgmatism and survival. This story is set in a lived environment connecting 4 hearts. Highly recommended as written and reAd..

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Brilliant storytelling AND narration

This was a moving and interesting story. Every character was presented so well. I am glad that I listened to the audiobook, because the narrators brought the book alive.

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Not interesting enough as an audio book

Might be something i could read, but couldn't get into as an audio book. Listened for over 30 minutes, just too ponderous to appreciate in this format.

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A loving story

This story is so sweet! The narration was simply amazing. Every narrator’s voice went along with the character they portrayed and kept me captive the entire book. I hadn’t heard of this book before now and I’m so glad I listened to it!

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loved it!

well written story that shows the impact of one woman has in so many lives.