Friday, December 12, 2014

Definitely Worth Considering: A Map of Betrayal

A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin

Biracial quinquagenarian (test driving that word, but it basically means someone 50 and over), Lilian Shang, was born and brought up in America by an American mother and a Chinese father.  For most of her adult life she's had unanswered questions about her Chinese father and his past.  And it's this slew of leftover questions that wakes the need to unbury his life; from his roots in China, his immigration to America, and finally to his incarceration and death as a Chinese intelligence spy working as a mole within the CIA.  Gary Shang, Lilian's father, traded intel used by China to damage the U.S. national security, all the while raising her. So she needed to know his story. His life. From the beginning to the end. And she needed to understand his divided loyalty between China and America.

Long before her mother died of pancreatic cancer, she would complain to Lilian about the affair her husband had with a Chinese reporter named Suzie Chao. With those complaints came the warning: “…have nothing to do with that woman.” Until this moment, Lilian has complied with her mother’s wishes. But now, requiring answers regarding her father, she seeks out Suzie.  Here she finds that her father left six journals chronicling his life between 1949-1980. In these journals Lilian uncovers her father’s first marriage in China. The twin children birthed from this marriage. And the pain he faced working for Communist China who separated him from that family to secure his role as a spy. Unfortunately, his country turn its back on him when his position is uncovered, subsequently throwing him on trial and into prison.

With the story of her father’s life in hand, Liliam finds herself applying his hard lessons to save the life of her nephew and Gary Shang’s grandson here in the present.

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