Green Island is a story of love, betrayal, and family, set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan in the twentieth century.
February 28, 1947—Trapped inside the family home amidst an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community—conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between right and what might save her family–the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.
In a story that sweeps across six decades and two continents, Green Island traces the course of Taiwan's history, from the end of Japanese colonial rule, to the decades under martial law, and finally to Taiwan’s transformation into a democracy. This lush, lyrical novel depicts a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: How far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?
ADVANCE REVIEWS for GREEN ISLAND
“[An] engrossing epic. . . Absorbing and affecting, this powerful tale explores the bond between a father and daughter, the compromises they are forced to make, and the prices they pay in their quest for freedom.”
Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred)
“Epic… The narrative works movingly on many different levels but especially on the personal and the political.”
“Shawna Yang Ryan’s propulsive storytelling carries us through a bloody time in Taiwanese history, its implications still reverberating today. The story is haunted by questions about whether Taiwan is a part of China or its own country,
what the costs are of standing up for one’s beliefs and by the choices made by one father and his daughter. Green Island is a tough, unsentimental and moving novel that is a memorial not only to the heroes, but also to the survivors.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer
Locke, CA, 1928—Three bedraggled Chinese women suddenly appear out of the mist one afternoon in a small Chinese farming town on the Sacramento River, and their arrival throws the community into confusion. Two of the women are unknown to the townspeople, while the third is the long-lost wife of Richard Fong, the handsome manager of the local gambling parlor, who had left her behind in China many years earlier and had not yet returned for her.
Richard's wife's unexpected arrival complicates his life in no small way—not least with two prostitutes at the local brothel he frequents. One, the beautiful young Chloe, depends on him but has eyes for someone else, someone even more forbidden—the local preacher's daughter. The other, Poppy, the psychic madam of the brothel, is desperately in love with him, and she begins to sink into despair as he grows further and further away from her.
As the lives of the townspeople become inextricably intertwined with the newly arrived women, Poppy's premonitions begin to foretell a deep unhappiness for all involved. And when a flood threatens the livelihood of the entire town, the frightening power of these mysterious women who arrived in the mist will be revealed.
Water Ghosts is published by Penguin Press. It was originally published under the title Locke 1928 by El Leon Literary Arts in 2007.