Shoes in the River by Madelyn Rohrer
With Shoes in the River: The Story of ‘Feather,’ Madelyn Grape Rohrer examines life in China from the early 1970s through 2004, through the lives of the fictional Ming family. Their existence in a small village changes drastically over the course of 32 years, as they navigate personal trials against the backdrop of a country that is negotiating between its ancient heritage and the dawning of a modern era.The book’s title is based on the ancient Chinese practice of dispensing with one’s shoes once a great emotional burden has been lifted from the wearer. Shoes are thrown into the river to acknowledge the difficulty that has passed and greet the future with optimism and happiness.
As the reader follows the Ming family into the 21st century, they experience the most human of struggles. The old Chinese regime is forced to make way for more modern practices, and the Mings struggle with the transition. Should they embrace new technological advances as they become available in their rural environment? Will the economic and political structure of their nation hold fast, or crumble as the future comes knocking? And when, if ever, will their personal heartbreaks and triumphs finally allow them to throw their shoes in the river and welcome what is to come with open arms? With sharp and emotionally poignant writing, Rohrer creates a fascinating combination of personal journey and political examination, as the Mings come into their own while China emerges as the world power it remains to this day.
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