“Zhuoma,” she shouted. “come over here! What’s Ge’er doing?”
Saierbao, who was standing nearby, couldn’t understand Wen’s reaction. What was so surprising about the men in the family doing the sewing? Zhuoma told her that Chinese men hardly ever touched a needle, that sewing and mending were invariably women’s work. Ni fell about laughing after she heard this. “Women, sewing?” she said to her mother. “Surely not.”
Saierbao shook her head, sharing in her daughter’s disbelief at this absurd idea.
What would you do if your husband of less than 100 days was sent off to war and never returned? Would you join the army to gain access and answers? Would you travel to a harsh, conflict heavy country in search of him? Would you give up country, family, career, and life as you know to search for a husband presumed dead?
Xinran is a Chinese-born reporter who was able to spend a few days with Wen, to hear her story of love, loss, and peace. She wrote Wen’s story as a love letter to a husband and to Tibet.
Wen and Kejun lived a charmed life as Chinese doctors in the 1950’s. Kejun joined the army and went to Tibet in hopes of unifying the two countries. He was told they would be greeted as liberators (sorry for stealing the apt line), but found violence instead. He was declared dead shortly after arriving and Wen in her grief joins his unit and heads to Tibet.
Almost immediately Wen is separated from her unit and she was cared for by a Tibetan woman, Zhouma. The two women are both searching for love lost and lead a nomadic life for many, many years.
The book was riveting. I was unsure if I would warm up to Wen, but I did. Xinran was so outspoken in her admiration for this woman but it took the whole story to be told for me to really understand it. And even then I think it could have been that Wen was mysterious and left the author wanting more.
This is Wen’s love story and also a description of her life as an outsider. It was easy to be drawn into an unfamiliar, yet stirring country and its people. The book is a fast read at only 200 pages, but a worthwhile one. I highly recommend it.